Fifth European Catholic-Orthodox Forum Statement
Paris, France, 9–12 January 2017 (EP) - “Take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16: 33)
1. At the invitation of His Eminence Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, the 5th European Catholic-Orthodox Forum was held from 9th to 12th January, 2017 at the headquarters of the Missions Etrangères of Paris, France. The Forum was co-chaired by Cardinal Peter Erdő, on behalf of the President of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) and Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Following the positive experiences of the first four meetings of the European Catholic-Orthodox Forum (Trent, Italy, 11–14 December 2008, Rhodes, Greece, 18–22 October 2010, Lisbon, Portugal, 5–8 June 2012, Minsk, Belarus, 2–6 June 2014), twelve delegates of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) with twelve representatives of the Orthodox Churches in Europe met in Paris to examine in depth the themes of the threat of fundamentalist terrorism, the value of the person, and religious freedom.
The theme of the meeting ‘‘Europe in fear of the threat from fundamentalist terrorism, and the value of human person and religious freedom’’ was considered in depth at the Forum, the aim of which is to demonstrate the convergence of Catholics and Orthodox on the major issues of social ethics, in order to contribute to the peace and stability of our societies. We always turn to the inexhaustible source of inspiration and renewal, the Gospel of Christ the Saviour of humanity.
3. We discussed the terrorist actions that have plagued many of our countries and have given rise to various reactions. We have tried to decipher the causes of terrorism. We are well aware that we have little influence on Islamist networks, but we need to understand the phenomenon in all its dimensions. There is no question of stigmatizing the religion of Islam. We observe, with Muslim leaders themselves, that some terrorists justify their action from the sacred texts of Islam. We are well aware that a great work of hermeneutics of the foundational texts is required, in order to acquire an enlightened understanding. The perpetrators of terrorist acts are most often socially disengaged young people, who find in these unspeakable actions an outlet for their own distress.
It has been suggested that radicalisation has become Islamised, rather than the opposite. We believe that some narratives of Islamic history and experience have reinforced the spirit of these young people with a vision of hatred and rejection of the other. Youth, however, is the time of hope and of building the future. We invite all young people to commit themselves to building a fraternal world that excludes no one. We call on Muslim religious authorities to ensure that there is no propagation of a systematically hostile image of the non-Muslim world.
14. Secular Europe is deeply rooted in our Christian traditions, which have provided it with its universalist vision, its notion of the dignity of the human person and its moral principles. If you are cut off from your roots, you will come adrift. The emptiness within especially exposes the youngest people to the worst temptations. We firmly repeat that the Christian faith reconciles all the personal and social dimensions that are found in the human person. This is expressed in the dual commandment to love God and our neighbour, which is the key to mutual acceptance. The love of neighbour comes without condition or What demands (cf. Matthew 22:39). The dialogue of truth between people of different religions or beliefs is the only way out of situations of fear and mutual exclusion. Dialogue teaches us to become more humble. In dialogue with others, we constantly discover unsuspected riches in our common humanity. Thus we are happy to make progress towards a better knowledge and greater love of Him who – to us – is the fulfilment of our humanity: Jesus Christ our Lord, “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6).✙Christendom has become, as a practical matter, impossible. No polity in the West is going to prohibit the sale of alcohol on fast days or withhold licensing to doctors who perform abortions. Nobody is going to outlaw pornography or sodomy. Nobody is going to deny a building permit to a Muslim mosque, Hebrew synagogue, or Sikh temple.
If there is a Christian ontological defense of the secular State I would love to see it, but I anticipate it would boil down to pure practicality. The nuclear-armed secular State is the most powerful and influential institution in the world. It is going to enforce religious pluralism, and that is that. The Christian hierarchy will either go along or find themselves shut out of the public square if not criminally prosecuted. Thus, they align with the secular State, either out of venality or desperation.
Again, this may be completely ontologically defensible. But in either event, Christian resources devoted to hawking their wares in the local or global marketplace would be much more effectively deployed internally: our Faith can get young people married off, reproduce itself in its pews, support young mothers, provide jobs for young fathers, and provide welfare to its elderly and disabled adherents, thereby demonstrating an operational manifestation of its morality. People not suited for marriage can enter monastic orders. The simple are protected from error by a robust Church. We keep our people clean, healthy, and wholesome. As friend of the blog Patrick Sheridan puts it, then we would have meat on the bones of our evangelism, something for the masses to actually "come and see."
But this is hard stuff. Much easier just to pay your taxes and cede these matters to the State.