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Alexy II Cautions World Council of Churches. Says New Differences Could Thwart Ecumenism
MOSCOW, JUNE 24, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Patriarch Alexy II of the Russian Orthodox Church cautioned the World Council of Churches that new developments in some churches could undermine ecumenical relations.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church met with the secretary-general of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Samuel Kobia, who visited Moscow with a delegation from June 18-24, reported a statement of the council.

The patriarch expressed gratitude for actions of "authentic Christian solidarity" by the ecumenical organization during the Soviet period, and emphasized how membership in the council had helped the Orthodox Church endure a period of isolation and persecution.

"We recall with gratitude those who were in the leadership of the council at that time. They trusted us, and supported our Church. We remember this authentic Christian solidarity," he said.

New developments

The patriarch also noted new obstacles facing Christian unity, caused by a "free interpretation" of principles of Christian morality. "We see growing divergences in the teaching and practice of Church life. But we should continue the road of collaboration which we have together followed for decades," he stated.

Patriarch Alexy II pointed out that the Russian Orthodox Church shares the WCC's serious concern regarding the growth of religious extremism and violence in the world. "Any crime in the name of religion is a crime against religion," he stated. "War is evil and can only be overcome by our common efforts."

The patriarch expressed the Russian Church's desire to collaborate with WCC work, notably in the areas of peacemaking, interreligious dialogue, and the protection of creation.

Kobia presented an overview of the WCC's main priorities and issues facing churches and the ecumenical movement. The discussion covered concerns for religious freedom and tolerance in Russia, developments in world Christianity, and the renewed focus on spirituality in ecumenical life.

For his first official visit to the largest WCC member church, the WCC secretary-general was accompanied by Archbishop Nifon of Targoviste (Romanian Orthodox Church), Dr. Mary Tanner (Church of England), Dr. Robert Welsh, (Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, USA), and WCC deputy secretary-general Georges Lemopoulos.

A Pentecost

During the WCC delegation's time in Moscow, visits were scheduled to several spiritual, social and educational centers, including the Moscow Theological Academy, the St. Tikhon's Orthodox University, where the members met students and faculty, and saw the social work of the St. Dimitri Sisterhood allowing them to witness the revival of these institutions.

Commenting on the "extraordinary history of transformation and growth" which the visitors had witnessed, the WCC general secretary underlined that "after difficult years of martyrdom and persecution, the Church has lived a concrete experience of Pentecost."