06/27/2018, 10.06
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Patriarch Kirill praises the World Council of Churches

by Vladimir Rozanskij

In his greeting for the 70th anniversary of the institution, he defines it as "an exceptional space for dialogue between Christians of various confessions". The appeal to help Christians in the Middle East and North Africa, threatened to disappear. The WCC support  for Moscow Patriarchate over Kiev in Ukraine.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Moscow Patriarch Kirill (Gundjaev) has sent a congratulatory message for 70 years since the establishment of the World Council of Churches (WCC), which took place on 23 August 1948, after being postponed due to the Second World War World. The Russian Orthodox Church became part of the WCC in 1961, on the recommendation of the Soviet authorities that they saw in this an opportunity to support their international politics.

Addressing the WCC secretary, the Norwegian Lutheran theologian Olav Fykse Tveit, and the entire Central Committee, the Russian Patriarch recalled that the Council is "a major international organization and unique platform for dialogue between Christians of various confessions. For the years of its work, the World Council of Churches has done much to develop inter-confessional dialogue, to promote justice in society and peace among nations. ". Kirill recalled how "the entry of the Russian Orthodox Church in the WCC in 1961 helped to open for it new opportunities” and how “our special concern were joint efforts in overcoming the confrontation between East and West and struggling for peace and justice in international relations.".

The message also thanks the WCC "for the solidarity that our brothers and sister shared with us in the desire to overcome the restrictions of religious freedom as a consequence of the state policy formed by the ideology of militant atheism". Kirill himself participated as a young "Soviet" bishop at the assembly of Nairobi in 1975, publicly denying that there were religious persecutions in the USSR; they were complicated times of ecclesiastical diplomacy and Vatican Ostpolitik, when Soviet leaders were allowed to use ecclesiastical propaganda to conceal religious persecution.

However, the head of the Russian Church does not indulge in the re-evocation of those difficult times, but turns instead to future prospects, where the patriarchate of Moscow has every intention of being a leading player. He states that "today’s challenges are no less serious than those of the 20th century were. In the situation of continued secularization of society, we have encountered a profound spiritual and moral crisis caused by a deviation from the faith and traditional Christian values. The world going through social and economic hardships has again found itself on the brink of a global war.".

An appeal is made for help to Christians in the Middle East and North Africa, "where there is a real threat of the complete disappearance of Christian communities in the region". This urgent issue is what led the Russian Church and Patriarch Kirill to the historic meeting with Pope Francis in Havana in 2016. This is why the Russians renew their trust in the WCC, from which they had distanced themselves in the last 20 years, taking a critical stance towards official ecumenism.

The other reason for the rapprochement, in conclusion of Kirill's message, is the gratitude to the WCC "for the firm position expressed by the Secretary General in his appeal to the state authorities of Ukraine, in defence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church" - meaning the one faithful to Moscow, the only one considered "canonical" - "which is currently the subject of discrimination and persecution". The WCC support for Moscow's legitimacy in Ukraine, together with the support of Pope Francis and the leaders of the Catholic Church, should guarantee the Russians sufficient pressure to prevent the recognition of Ukrainian autocephaly (Kiev Patriarchate) by Constantinople , the most "burning issue" in inter-Orthodox relations in recent months.

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