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Europes Catholic, Orthodox leaders say theyll stand against terrorism

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Europes Catholic, Orthodox leaders say theyll stand against terrorism

OXFORD, England (CNS) —
Catholic and Orthodox leaders have pledged to stand together against
fundamentalism and terrorism, as well as resisting forces working to erode and
destroy religious belief in Europe.

“Terrorist violence against
people considered unbelievers or infidels is the extreme degree of religious
intolerance — we unreservedly condemn it and deplore that such acts have
developed in the soil of a misguided religious culture,” the church
representatives said in a joint message Jan. 13.

“The constitutions of our
states guarantee the fundamental rights of the human person. Nevertheless, in
our societies, forces are always at work to marginalize or even erase religions
and their message from the public space. We believe Europe needs more than ever
the breath of faith in Christ and the hope it provides.”

The 14-point message was
published after a Jan. 9-12 meeting of the European Catholic-Orthodox Forum,
co-chaired in Paris by Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo, former president of the
Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, and Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima
for the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

It said Catholic and Orthodox
bishops deplored “crimes that may have been committed in the name of
religion,” but believed their churches should not be blamed “for
attitudes of intolerance that are inadmissible nowadays, but used to be shared
by societies in the past.”

“Our Catholic and Orthodox
churches proclaim the centrality of the human person and of its dignity created
in the image of God. … Human freedom is exercised to the utmost in the act of
religious faith, which must always remain free,” said the statement from
the forum, which was attended by Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk
and bishops, archbishops and cardinals from 20 countries.

“Political power should not
favor a particular religion but respect the supreme divinity which each
religion names according to its convictions. … The state guarantees religious
freedom for all, but is itself subject to a natural ethical order from which it
cannot escape.”

The four-day meeting, co-hosted
by Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris and Orthodox Metropolitan Emmanuel of
France, was the first since East-West ties deteriorated over Russian
involvement in Ukraine.

The message said the meeting’s
aim was “to demonstrate the convergence of Catholics and Orthodox on major
issues of social ethics” and the will of both churches to stand together
in the face of “unprecedented challenges and threats against Christianity.”

It added that the churches had
no intention of “stigmatizing the religion of Islam.” Noting that
terrorists often were “socially disengaged young people,” it invited all
youths to “commit themselves to building a fraternal world that excludes
no one. We call on Muslim religious authorities to ensure there is no
propagation of a systematically hostile image of the non-Muslim world.”

The forum message said 80
percent of religious persecutions worldwide currently targeted Christians,
adding that Catholic and Orthodox leaders shared solidarity with Christian targets
in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

However, it added that religious
freedom also faced “restrictive interpretation” and “more subtle
forms of discrimination” in European countries, such as when Christians
were “excluded from certain roles or professions,” denied the right
to conscientious objection and subjected to “the media’s denigration of
what is most sacred to some.”

The message said children should
be “properly educated in their own religion and at the same time educated
to respect the religion of others,” adding that schools not be places “for
experimentation with anthropological theses without scientific foundation, like
gender theories or certain ecological ideologies that go as far as

A press statement from the
Council of European Bishops’ Conferences said the forum had not tackled theological
or doctrinal matters or replaced a separate Catholic-Orthodox theological dialogue
commission, which is finalizing an agreed document on papal primacy.


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