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Final Message


I. Experience

1. Eight years have passed since the first European Ecumenical Assembly was held in Basel, the first of its kind and a joyful foretaste of the momentous changes about to take place in Europe the widespread extension of freedom with the end of the "Cold War". By the time we gathered in Graz, Austria for the Second European Ecumenical Assembly in June, 1997, the euphoria had dissipated. The final document from Basel on "Peace with Justice for the Whole Creation" stating that Europe is facing "a cumulative series of inter-locking problems which endanger human survival" (No. 8) has been vindicated, even the cruelties of war have returned to Europe, leaving wounds still unhealed.

2. Challenged and inspired by the theme "Reconciliation - Gift of God and Source of New Life", we came to Graz, men and women of all generatio ns from the many churches of Europe, from East and West, from North and South. Among us there were also representatives of other religions and from other parts of the world. As Christians in churches which are still divided, we experience the fears, tensions, problems and barriers as fellow-Europeans, indeed as do all human beings. But in our hearts there was the strong hope of taking steps on the road towards reconciliation. This hope was strengthened by the presence and contribution of so many young people.

3. We came to the Second European Ecumenical Assembly because we are believers and because we wish to live by God's gift of reconciliation. We came with the hope that, if we are guided by this gift in our daily lives, in the lives of our churches and the life of our continent, we will be fostering the unity of the Church and of humankind.

4. God has blessed us abundantly in these days. A fundamental part of our meeting and the basis of our communion was our daily wors hip. Praying together we realized anew that we have one Father in heaven, merciful and faithful, in whom we all believe as sons and daughters. Pondering on the Word of God we felt the power of God's grace in the Gospel that changes our mentality and gives new life as it gathers people around the One Lord. The Holy Spirit who is "the Giver of Life" created an atmosphere of confidence and collaboration in which we could open our minds and hearts to one another. We also suffered the pain of persisting divisions, which underline how difficult it is to live the reconciliation we proclaim. Practical charity was required in conducting such a large assembly, involving delegates and church leaders from more than 150 churches and over 10 000 people from a rich variety of backgrounds. We experienced both the hard work that ecumenical encounter requires as well as the joy of a growing unity. Indeed the ecumenical movement itself is already a path of reconciliation.

II. Reflection

5. In Graz, we caught a glimpse of the reality of reconciliation in Christ, and the blessings to be found on the way towards it - the blessing of recalling the Jewish roots of our faith (Rom 11.16-18), rediscovering our neighbour, the restoration of friendship and mutual trust in which both are changed. This offered the opportunity of growing together and so building a common future. We have a vision of a Europe where there are no first or second class churches, citizens, states, and races, and where all the members of the one European family have a voice: a Europe conscious of its responsibilities and open to the other continents. A renewed and vigorous commitment by all the churches to work for the fulfilment of our Lord's prayer, " ... that they all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe... " (Jn 17.21) would surely contribute to the development of a truly united Europe. We believe that this is a vision which must appeal to all, and one which we as Christians commit ourselves to pursue.

6. We came to this ecumenical gathering not just to exchange ideas and share experiences, but to go beyond words to specific measures, aware that our divisions and enmities still provoke conflict, and are a serious obstacle to making visible the gift of reconciliation. For this we seek God's forgiveness and express our repentance to those we have harmed. We are sadly aware that these divisions exist not only between our churches but also between members of our churches and between women and men. Since these difficulties exist in us as individuals and in our churches, reconciliation must start by the Spirit of God in Christ changing our hearts and minds.

7. While recognizing the opportunities resulting from globalization, we are aware that through this, people can become victims of economic interests and decisions that are beyond their control. The gap betwe en rich and poor is widening, not only throughout the world but also in many parts of Europe. Ruthless exploitation of non-renewable resources, pollution of the environment and disruption of ecosystems are now causing immense damage and threaten the well-being of future generations and the whole of creation.

III. Challenge

8. We Christians and churches of Europe, confront these challenges conscious of our weakness and the scandal of our divisions. We do not have any simple solutions to offer. What moves us is our Christian vision of reconciliation. The gift of reconciliation in Christ inspires us to commit ourselves:

  • to proclaim and communicate to the peoples of Europe the Gospel that "in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself " (2 Cor 5,19);
  • to the unflagging pursuit of the goal of visible unity; in this context we should reexamine our divisions, asking ourselves whether they are the result of diversi ties which were seen as divisive at that time but can now be seen as enriching;
  • to initiate the process of the healing of memories in a spirit of historical truth;
  • to foster cooperation in all fields including mission, open dialogue and, while respecting mutual freedom of conscience, to avoid destructive competition;
  • to affirm the equal status and rights of minority churches and peoples;
  • to encourage local associations, public institutions and European bodies in their work of reconciliation;
  • to continue serious interfaith dialogues bearing in mind that even in Europe individuals and churches still suffer for their faith;
  • to organize ecumenical meetings at local and regional levels in order to carry forward the experience of Graz;
  • to involve young people, entrusting to them the ecumenical vision for the future and also to take forward the conciliar process concerning justice, peace and integrity of creation.

The ch urches commit themselves:

  • to the unequivocal proclamation and defense of human rights and democratic processes;
  • to cooperate in seeking to outlaw all forms of violence, especially against women and children;
  • to oppose all forms of discrimination within the churches;
  • to promote the status and equality of women in all fields, including decision-making processes, while preserving the distinct identities of men and women;
  • to make clear their commitment to social justice and their solidarity with victims of social injustice;
  • to foster sound environmental policies within their own field of activity;
  • to oppose economic systems which induce the negative effects of globalization.

Our own commitment to this reconciliation process leads us to urge political decision-makers and the citizens:

  • to promote the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life;
  • to restore or maintain the primacy of the human person over economic interests; which implies, among other things, fighting unemployment, particularly with regard to young people;
  • to champion the dignity and protect the rights of refugees, migrants and displaced persons, and to uphold the right of refugees to asylum and free place of residence;
  • to encourage disarmament and the development of nonviolent conflict management, and fostering without delay negotiation leading to complete elimination of nuclear arms, according to the Non Proliferation Treaty;
  • in the Biblical spirit of jubilee, to cancel the unpayable debts of the poorest countries by the year 2000, ensuring that the common people will be the main beneficiaries;
  • to take the necessary measures to reverse the present trend towards ecological destruction and depletion of the world's resources and to create the conditions allowing a sustainable life for all creation.

9. We declare most strongly our convi ction of the indispensable role of the ethical dimension of justice in the fields of politics, economics, technology and the mass media, so that reconciliation may become a reality in the lives of all human beings.

10. Reconciliation as the gift of God and source of new life encourages us to cooperate with our sisters and brothers who suffer persecution and marginalisation as the result of prejudices based on such things as race, gender, ethnic origin, age and religion, in building genuine human community. A spirituality of reconciliation implies countering egocentric individualism with the recognition that differences are a gift helping us to discover the marvelous diversity of God's unique world.

11. As European churches and Christians we are committed to manifest more fully our solidarity with those in need, those marginalized and rejected by the world in which we live. Each human being is a brother or sister for whom Christ died and rose again. Each is made in the image of the Triune God.

* Adopted with 563 votes in favour, 8 votes against and 21 abstentions.

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