Germany, CEC, Turkey

Germany: the new president of the Evangelical ChurchNikolaus Schneider is the new President of the Council of the German Evangelical Church (EKD). He was elected in Hannover during the 11th synod of the German Evangelical Church (EKD). Msgr. Robert Zollitsch, President of the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK), released a statement conveying his congratulations for the election, “in ecumenical union and with deep joy”. Msgr. Zollitsch underlined Schneider’s “rich experiences” and recalled the previous meetings – notably the Second Ecumenical Church Day in Munich – praising Schneider’s Christian values, “deeply rooted in faith and theological awareness of individual preoccupations and needs”. “Difficult challenges lie ahead, which must be addressed with dedication and major theological competence”, said the president of German bishops, who underlined that he shares Scheider’s view that “ecumenical understanding is not only something we create, it’s also something that is given to us. There is no alternative to ecumenism”. “We must remain united in this journey, bringing forth our sincere and constructive dialogue as equals. People in Germany need our joint witness”, concluded Msgr. Zollitsch. On November 7 Msgr. Norbert Trelle, bishop of Hildesheim, told the synod that “Catholic bishops are attentively following the upcoming EKD Council elections (…) in the certainty that our ongoing fraternal bond will continue also in future ecumenical cooperation”. The bishop called to “proceed with realism” in ecumenical dialogue. Hanging questions need to be tackled on an permanent basis, with mutual respect and theological honesty”. Msgr. Trelle also spoke of the major themes of the synod, focusing on the right to education and social participation. According to the bishop, “the numerous young people who are lacking hope in an autonomous and economically independent life is reason for serious concern”. The bishop criticized the tone of the recent debate on integration. “As Christians our responsibility is to contribute to mitigating the tone of the debate and discuss the social problems of our Country with a language that won’t offend or marginalize others”. CEC: European conference on poverty On November 9 the international Consultation on Combating poverty organised by the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC,) in cooperation with churches in Hungary, opened in Budapest. Eighty participants from 32 European countries, with world experts, are reflecting on the theme “Poverty, Wealth, and Ecology in Europe”. In the opening speech of the conference H.E. Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, President of CEC, underlined: “Economic liberalism that was self regulatory before, has reached the limit of its expression. There is a crisis in values, which places man before his responsibilities”. Churches cannot stand outside of this process. “There is an active role – the Metropolitan said – that Churches are called to carry out in order to respond to societal challenges. We have to promote a new lifestyle that will rid us of the pressure of economy and consumerism” on the basis of an “ethics of responsibility”. Yesterday representatives of the Hungarian government and the representative of Hungary’s delegates to the European Commission, Tamas Szucz, presented to participants EU programs on combating poverty. The conference is ongoing until November 12. Turkey: a historical ruling in favour of the Patriarchate A historical sentence was issued by a Turkish Court of Justice, the first of the kind. On the wake of the ruling by the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, the Court of Buyukada returned the orphanage of Buyukada to the ecumenical patriarchate. The court told the “Fanar” that the order had been given to return the building, located on the Princes Island, to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Court also ruled that the “Rum Patrikanesi” (The Patriarchate of the Rum, the name given to the Orthodox Catholics in Turkey) be registered in the cadastre, thus recognizing its juridical status de facto. It must also be underlined that with this ruling the court of Buyukada denies the previous sentence of June 27 2005, with which, under the encouragement of the Religious Foundation Board, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople was stripped of all property rights. This ruling, the first by a Turkish Court, concludes the long controversy begun in 1999 between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Religious Foundations Board, which is an expression of Republican Turkey whereby it exerted control on minorities. A last step is left. It is necessary to undo the “mazbut” status of the orphanage, thus providing to release the General Foundation Board from its sequestration and occupation and handing over its management to elected members of the Christian-Orthodox community in Istanbul. The ruling paves the way to the possibility of releasing 23 Turkish monasteries from sequestration, which are still public property through the Foundation’s general board. As the ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew I said, the orphanage will be used as world centre for inter-religious understanding and as an observatory for environmental protection.

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