Church council leader urges greater understanding with Catholics, Orthodox

Posted: Friday, February 09, 2001

BERLIN (AP) -- The World Council of Churches' top official has called for new efforts to create better understanding between Christian denominations.

Konrad Raiser, secretary-general of the council representing 350 million to 450 million Christians outside the Roman Catholic church, called for ''a safe space which allows for open discussion, where all can get a hearing.''

Raiser lamented the fact that both Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches ''declare that in faithfulness to the apostolic tradition they cannot recognize in other churches the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, even though they acknowledge church unity as a gospel imperative.''

Raiser's address to the WCC's ruling central committee, meeting in Potsdam outside Berlin, followed the Vatican's assertion last September of Roman Catholic primacy, and its rejection of what it said were growing attempts to depict all religions as equal.

Relations between Orthodox and Protestant members of the WCC are also strained.

In January 1999, the Russian Orthodox Church suspended full participation in the WCC over concerns that the group is becoming too liberal. Orthodox churches from Bulgaria and Georgia previously quit altogether.

A special commission on repairing Orthodox relations is halfway through its work. Since reorganization of the WCC is one possibility, the central committee extended Raiser's term by a year, to December 2003.

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