By Lisa Zengarini
On April 22, European Churches will be celebrating the 20th anniversary the “Charta Oecumenica”. The European Ecumenical Charter was signed in 2001 by the presidents of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) and Conference of European Churches (CEC) to promote closer collaboration and ecumenical dialogue in Europe.
Contribution of Charta Oecumenica to ecumenism
Ahead of this milestone anniversary, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, President of CCEE, and Rev. Christian Krieger, President of the CEC, have issued a joint statement in which they “give thanks to God for the peace we have experienced and the achievements of the global ecumenical movement,” namely “in areas of daily life such as joint witness and action in local ecumenism, as well as inter-church marriages,” but also at a theological level.
”Several interfaith initiatives have flourished,” the statement remarks. “Churches have strengthened their work towards a just and peaceful world (…) and have increased their efforts towards the care of creation.”
According to Cardinal Bagnasco and Reverend Krieger, “the message of the Charta Oecumenica has contributed and given new vigour to this growth and transformation.”
At the same time, the two European Church leaders point out that Churches and societies continue to be challenged by human sin and divisions. “Old and new church divisions are in need of healing and societal and economic inequalities call for the transformation of our attitudes and structures.”
They also point out the ongoing “threats to democracy and the natural environment” that demand a renewed attention to life in its whole and the “resurgence of armed conflicts and terrorist attacks in some parts of the continent,” which need “repentance, forgiveness and justice.”
Renewed commitment to fellowship and peace
In the face of these realities and in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, European Churches “reaffirm, together and in a spirit of unity” their “commitment to witness to Christ as our Saviour.”
While recognizing Christian unity does not result only from human efforts, Cardinal Bagnasco and Reverend Krieger finally point out that unity “must be perceptible in this world.”
To this end they reiterate their commitment to strengthening their fellowship “through common prayer and action”, while promoting justice and peace in the world.
The “Charta Oecumenica” is the first joint document published by the European Churches in the last 1,000 years.
Signed in Strasbourg on 22 April 2001, by Cardinal Miloslav Vlk and Metropolitan Jeremias, and translated in 24 languages, it lays down twelve goals, also in view of the European integration process.
These include: proclaiming the Gospel together; responding to the call for unity; working together; praying together; continuing dialogue; reconciling peoples and cultures; helping to shape Europe; safeguarding creation; deepening the communion with Judaism; promoting relations with Islam and other religions and visions of the world.