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WCC president calls for solidarity with the poor

Ecumenical gathering in Munich explores link between religion, culture

September 16, 2011

GENEVA

A call for solidarity with the poor was delivered to a gathering of religious and political and civil society leaders from all over the world by one of the presidents of the World Council of Churches (WCC). The meeting on the topic “Bound to Live Together: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue” took place Sept. 11-13 in Munich, Germany.

The Roman Catholic lay community of Sant’Egidio convened the gathering in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 in New York. Among the speakers are many leading figures of the ecumenical movement, including Dame Mary Tanner, WCC president for Europe.

Tanner was part of a panel on “Christian Unity, Love of the Poor” that included Patriarch Daniel of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Filaret of the Russian Orthodox Church, Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity of the Roman Catholic Church, Bishop Munib Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation and Fr Marco Gnavi of the community of Sant’Egidio.

Patriarch Daniel expressed the need for “a regional spiritual and social ecumenism” which would not be based on new theories and concepts, but on the ongoing tradition of the One Church, the lives of the saints and the example of the gospel.

Metropolitan Filaret focused on the spiritual and social roots of the current financial crisis. Drawing on the social concept developed by the Moscow Patriarchate, he explained that wealth is a gift of God intended to enable the recipients to serve the poor.

When misused as a purely personal possession, wealth creates instability and disorder leading to economic crisis, he added. This condition begins as a spiritual crisis that infects society and leaves the whole economy unhealthy.

Tanner spoke on the link between unity among Christians and the responsibility to care for the poor. Tanner, a long-standing member and former moderator of the WCC Faith and Order commission, recalled her encounter with marginalized people in Lima, Peru in 1982 during a meeting of the Faith and Order plenary commission.

This experience led her to understand the deep connection between sacramental unity and agreement in one apostolic faith, on the one hand, and Christians’ common service and diakonia on behalf of those who are in need. 

Bishop Munib Younan, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land, called the churches to consider together ways of collaboration in support of the poor.

While presenting the work of the ACT Alliance as an organization that brings together Protestants and Orthodox in common humanitarian service and advocacy, he emphasized the need to use more efficiently the resources that churches have at their disposal, developing more joint projects. Younan added, “It is not our name that should be glorified, but the name of Christ.” 

The ACT Alliance includes the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

The meeting began with mass celebrated by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich, in the presence of representatives of many Christian traditions. The proceedings continued with a ceremony in memory of the victims of 9/11.

At the ceremony, Marx said that the United States and the whole of western civilization as well as the world community, which he defined as the ultimate target of the attacks, should go beyond direct defense against violence and find answers that build peace and teach us to live together in one world.

The participants were also addressed by German chancellor Angela Merkel who called on all religious people to pray for financial and ecological sustainability as the world deals with the current crises. 

The Sant’Egidio community is dedicated to communal prayer, meditation on Scripture, Christian unity, intercultural dialogue, social service and peacemaking.

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