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Creation is in danger, warns European bishop


A gathering in Romania of delegates from Europe’s main Christian traditions has called on churches to dedicate the period of 1 September to 4 October each year to prayer for the protection of creation, and action to promote sustainable lifestyles.

"Creation is in danger," German Lutheran Bishop Margot Kässmann said at a closing service of the Third European Ecumenical Assembly, which gathered more than 1500 delegates from 4 to 9 September in Sibiu, central Romania.

"By our materialist lifestyle, by our unjust structures and violence we contribute to the destruction of the environment.  We are responsible," Kässmann stated. "We cannot hold God responsible for what we do by our way of living, by our desire for ‘larger, further, more’."

The proposal for prayer and action about the environment was contained in a "message" issued by the assembly at the end of its six-day meeting.

"Throughout the world and even in Europe the current process of radical market globalisation is deepening the division of human society between winners and losers," the message said.  This process, "has catastrophic ecological implications, and precisely in view of climate change is not compatible with sustaining the future of our planet".

The assembly was organised by the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the Council of European (Roman Catholic) Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE).  The two groupings account for almost all of Europe’s Roman Catholic, Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches.

The Sibiu meeting followed previous assemblies in Basel, Switzerland in 1989 and Graz, Austria in 1997.  It coincided with a visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Austria, and assembly organizers said that the pontiff was to light a candle from Sibiu during the visit to show his support for the meeting.

Sibiu assembly delegates in their message appealed to the continent’s churches to support immigrants and other ethnic minorities, "particularly the Roma people", and to offer better pastoral care for migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.

At the same time, delegates urged churches, "to promote the creation of a renewed Europe, where unchangeable Christian principles and moral values, derived directly from the gospel, serve as a witness and promote active engagement in European society".

This could include, the message said, forming common cause with people of other religions, "who share our concern for creating a Europe of values that also prospers politically and economically."

Delegates warned, however, "Our witness to hope and unity for Europe and for the world will be credible only if we continue our journey towards visible unity."  They added, "In Sibiu we again felt the painful wound of division between our churches."

The Christian traditions represented in Sibiu remain divided on a number of central issues, including being able to share together in the Eucharist, or Lord’s supper.

The Rev. Jean-Arnold de Clermont, a French Protestant cleric who is president of CEC, told journalists at the close of the meeting that church leaders had "a moral obligation" from the Sibiu assembly to continue their efforts towards sharing communion.

Still, he said, "I deeply believe as a Protestant that the ecumenical movement has not been set up by leaders.  This is a grass roots movement and the Sibiu assembly is giving strength to theologians to pursue a path to greater understanding."

Organizers said more than 2600 people took part in the Sibiu assembly, including 1542 official delegates from the members of CEC and the CCEE.

Ecumenical News International