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Graz - Final Message - Basic Text

Coming together in Graz - a celebration of community

(A1) From all the Christian churches of Europe and from every region of this continent, we gathered in Graz - 700 delegates. We have been fortunate to have with us guests from other religions and continents and many thousands of other participants. "Reconciliation - Gift of God and Source of New Life" is the theme which has brought us together for the Second European Ecumenical Assembly. Despite the well known ecclesiological differences which exist among us and which caused divisions within the Christian world, we are aware that Jesus Christ unites us in our common grief over the scandal of division and in our common search for reconciliation. In this spirit, we present in this text certain observations and suggestions for a more comprehensive understanding of the need for reconciliation. This does not mean that we overlook the importance of overcoming the existing ecclesiological differences, of which we are well aware, for a better cooperation among the churches of Europe in facing the present crucial spiritual and social problems.

(A2) What can "reconciliation" mean to us in Europe, when we recall that many among us still suffer from the consequences of two terrible world wars, when we grieve for hundreds of thousands of victims of armed conflicts which have wounded our continent after the fall of the Berlin Wall? On what authority dare we as Christians to speak of reconciliation as we approach the end of this millennium which, we remember, began with the division of the Church in East and West? The answer to these questions is a renewed and common confession of faith and hope in God "through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation" (Rom 5.11). But before giving our churches and communities the account of our search for the gift of reconciliation and the forms of the reconciled life, we would like to express what a joyful occasion this Assembly in Graz has been for us. Who would have dared to hope, eight years ago at the First European Ecumenical Assembly in Basel, that we would meet again in a Europe so deeply changed? We rejoice in the gift of freedom and mobility; we welcome the new possibilities we have to get to understand one another, to serve one another, and to live together. During these days, we are full of joy above all because, as the People of God, we tread the pilgrim path in our yearning for unity.

The richness of our cultures and traditions

(A3) We rejoice in the richness of our different cultures and traditions. We are gradually regaining a more lively impression of the breadth and variety of this continent, though we are still struggling with the aftermath of the East-West confrontation which has dominated Europe for four decades. We had become strangers to one another. But in this friendly and welcoming city of Graz we have shared in a celebration of community and found new friends. Most of all we have learned how deeply our faith draws us together.

Community in spite of major contradictions

(A4) We have no wish to overlook the contrasts and contradictions underlying the diversity which characterizes our continent. At Basel in 1989, many of us did not envisage the tremendous upheavals which were about to occur. In Central and Eastern Europe, the social and economic conditions of much of the population have undergone radical changes. While there is considerable variation from one region to another, there seems to be a general trend towards greater freedom and broader perspectives. In a number of former socialist countries, problems have arisen from the fact that the legal tradition and institutions have been slow to develop and unready to undergo renewal. Nevertheless, the changes which began well before 1989 have come to challenge all European societies, each to a greater or lesser extent, to come to a new understanding of themselves, and to redefine their relations to each other.

(A5) Our joy in the Second European Ecumenical Assembly here in Gra z has strengthened our conviction that this must be an open continent. Whether for geographic, historical, religious or cultural reasons, it is continually being made clear that Europe cannot be imagined without the other continents. The diversity of Europe is based on its openness which is both its strength and its vulnerability. Therefore peace is all the more urgent.

From joy to thanksgiving: reconciliation, gift of God's mercy

(A6) Joy in the gift of being together opens our hearts in thanks to God, Father of our Saviour Jesus Christ, Creator of the world and Lord of history. We can speak of reconciliation only because we have experienced it in the life of our churches as the gift of the God to whom the Bible bears witness as "merciful and gracious" (cf. Ex 34.6; Ps 103.8, 145.8, 111.4; Joel 2.13; Jon 4.2; Lk 1.50; 2 Cor 1.3). The Holy Scriptures also speak of the anger and jealousy of God, but they do so always against the background of God's love and mercy. On this Jews, Christians and Muslims agree. Herein we recognize how deeply we are related, and that this relationship, after having been obscured by a long and bitter history of persecution and religious wars, could be the basis for common action.

The creation exists because of God's love

(A7) "We have been... loved from before the beginning", said the English mystic Julian of Norwich (14th century). Thus she testifies that the source of the creation is the love of God. This love carries and sustains the life of the world from one moment to the next. In the Lamentations of Jeremiah we read: "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness" (Lam 3.22-23). The Wisdom of Sirach says: "The compassion of the Lord is for every living thing" (Sir 18.13). These insights show that God's love embraces the entire cosmos. In the light of God's steadfast love we gratefully acknowledge the goodness of creation, the value and beauty of the world, although we also know how much pain and futility has entered it.

Jesus Christ is God's love in person

(A8) We thank God that in Jesus Christ we are given a clear image of God's l ove. In an act of self-emptying, the Son of God becomes incarnate and obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross (cf. Phil 2.5-11). His resurrection points to the fulfillment of all things. Paul says: "In Christ, God reconciled the world to himself, not counting men's trespasses against themselves, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us" (2 Cor 5.19). According to the testimony borne by the Apostle, God begins a new creation by raising Christ from the dead. We are called to break the cycle of violence which results in constant guilt and punishment, anger and revenge. We can and must go forth from the bonds of guilt and broken relationships, into God's peace. We Christians have repeatedly been unworthy messengers of reconciliation. Our lives and actions are often unreconciled, and not founded on God's mercy, which was revealed to us in Jesus Christ. In Graz we therefore wish to hearken to the call of the Apostle, "be reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5.20).

God's Spirit is at work among us as the power of reconciliation

(A9) We thank God because the newness of reconciliation is at work in the world. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit, given at Pentecost, in which we experience the continuous presence of the Risen Christ in history (cf. Mt 18.20; 28.20). We call the Spirit holy, because this Spirit not only comes from God but also has the power to make our lives holy, that is to change them fundamentally and to create new relationships. This is what "katallagé" (literally, a total change, a new creation, cf. 2 Cor 5.17), the Greek word for reconciliation, means. Although we bear the bruises of our lack of reconciliation, we believe that this reconciling power is still at work today among us. It can already be seen in our longing for reconciliation (cf. Rom 8.26f), and makes us prepared to let our thoughts and behaviour be transformed.

The Trinity - the all-encompassing movement of love

(A10) In witnessing to the mystery of the love of God, Christians profess their faith in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Thus they express the experience that, in the person of Jesus and in his readiness to give his life for us, the love of God the Father is revealed. Through Jesus' death and resurrection, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit, through whom we participate in the dynamic love of the Holy Trinity. This one and all-embracing movement of the love of God encompasses the whole of creation and is able to penetrate and transform the heart of every person, revealing to us the origin, model and goal of our existence according to Jesus' prayer to the Father, "as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one" (Jn 17.21).

God's kindness leads us to repentance

(A11) In the light of God's compassion we recognize both our individual and corporate sin. We hear the words of th e Apostle Paul: "... do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?" (Rom 2.4). We read Jesus' parable of the wicked slave who threw a fellow slave into prison for a debt of a hundred denarii, even though the king had forgiven him a debt of ten thousand talents, which is as much as 50 million denarii (cf. Mt 18.23-35). Precisely because we cannot measure the immensity of God's kindness, we realize how unworthy we are to receive it. So our thanksgiving for God's magnanimity and patience leads us to speak honestly about our debt, our guilt and our failures.

(A12) We are aware of the fact that guilt and suffering are distributed among us very unevenly. Therefore, we do not wish to engage in generalizing rituals of self-humiliation. We have every reason to be grateful for all the women and men past and present, who have been faithful and obedient ambassadors of God's reconcil iation, often to the point of laying down their lives for Christ. But as we come before God in gratitude for God's immeasurable goodness, we become mindful of our common brokenness and sinfulness before God ("coram Deo"). Just as the Basel Assembly adopted a detailed confession of sins and emphasized the need to turn to God ("metanoia", cf. Sections 41ff) we are called here in Graz to face our shortcomings and failures in the light of God's call to reconciliation. Only when we are prepared to name our faults and omissions, and only when we can bring ourselves to admit our pain over injustices suffered, can we hope to free each other of these burdens and find new ways forward in the future. The reconciliation which comes from God leads us through the narrow gate of repentance into the wide valley of reconciled life.

(A13) The way in which we speak about sin in the context of reconciliation here in Graz is not only or even primarily oriented towards the wrong beha viour of individuals or groups. Rather we wish to address the dimensions of evil that are deeply ingrained in our memories as Christian communities in Europe, and which haunt us to this day.

Divisions among the churches

(A14) We confess together before God that we have obscured the unity for which Christ prayed (cf. Jn 17.20f). We have presented to the world the unworthy spectacle of Christianity torn by divisions. This is the fateful consequence of the fact that in the course of history different conclusions for the life of our churches have been drawn. This has often led to mutual accusations, condemnation and persecution. In this way the credibility of our common Christian witness has been weakened.

Christians and Jews

(A15) We have a long history of guilt with regard to the Jewish people. Even though Jesus came from the Jewish people, according to the flesh, and although our faith is inconceivable without t he faith of the People of the Covenant, our culture is marked to this day by clear elements of anti-Semitism. Over the centuries the Jews have been persecuted in many parts of Europe. Christian people have contributed to it because they have misunderstood or denied that God remains faithful to his promises. Examples of this go back to early Christian times, and recur in the persecutions of the Middle Ages. In particular in our century Europe has witnessed the abominable tragedy of the Shoah. We gratefully remember all those who, at the cost of their own lives, saved Jews from death. Despite this, anti-Semitism flares up time and again.

Women and men

(A16) We confess before God that an unworthy attitude to women still exists in our churches and our societies. God created man and woman in God's own image. Jesus Christ, the incarnate God, looked upon man and woman as equals, seeing not their differences but the oneness, as expressed in Galatians 3.28. In sp ite of this, there is an underlying belief sometimes supported by scriptural and traditional references, that women are less fully made in the image of God than are men, and consequently their entire being and role is less valuable and worthy of respect. Thus women were subordinated to men in family, church and society. It is reflected, for example, in the fact that there is as yet not enough space for women to express the richness of their charisms and vocations in the services (cf. 1.Cor 12.4-13) and decision-making bodies of our churches. The physical violence of men towards women extends from systematic economic and political discrimination to the everyday forms of domestic oppression. If the meaning of baptism, as the incorporation of all baptized Christians into the body of Christ is to be taken seriously, all acts of violence against women, as against any human being, must be described as wounds to Christ's body.

Rupture between the generations

(A17) We confess that we as Christians and churches have contributed to the rupture between the generations. The church too, like society, is a common endeavour of all generations, children, young people, adults and the elderly. Yet the decision-making processes and structures are limited only to some generations, even though the decisions affect all. This is in contradiction with the dynamic image of the church as God's wandering people, in which all baptized persons are responsible in accordance with their charisms. The churches therefore have less credibility in the eyes of the younger generation.

European peoples' delusion of superiority

(A18) Many of our churches have played an influential role in the development of a sense of European superiority, which helped to justify European domination over the peoples of the earth. For the most part our churches have not had the insight or the strength to stop the destruction of foreign cultures, to pre vent genocide or fight against the slave trade. We have often provided empires and structures of power with religious legitimization. To this day, this kind of European superiority finds expression when we consider ourselves entitled to the riches and the markets of other continents, while ignoring their acute problems and turning their needy people away. This is a betrayal of the God who loves all people regardless of their race, religion and culture. For this reason we cannot stand by in silence. While we are gathered here, thousands of fellow Christians are suffering persecution and hardship in many parts of the world. We cannot remain indifferent to the fact that European Governments continue to retain political and economic relations with countries in which Christians suffer.

Abuse of creation

(A19) We have not lived up to the divine commandment to treat the whole creation with awe and to work to uphold its integrity. We have mistaken the biblical formula subdue and have dominion as giving us advice to subdue and dominate, as giving us license to exploit the wealth of creation in willful and selfish ways, when in fact this is a call to stewardship. Up to this day, and against our better knowledge, we persist with our accustomed patterns and comfortable habits of consumption.

Repentance does not hide the differences among us

(A20) In the mirror of God's goodness we recognize not only our common guilt towards God and our need of forgiveness by God, but also our debt to one another and to the world. However, this sharpening of our conscience also leads us to name the different degrees of blame and suffering among us. Women have suffered, and still do, more than men. Children have suffered more than adults. Smaller nations have been, and still are, exposed to the aggression of more powerful nations, often without any protection. Trampling upon the rights of minorities goes on as always. This is true for example of the Sinti and Roma, whose bitter history of being vilified and persecuted throughout Europe is a shameful reality. It is also true for people from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean who again and again are made the victims of racial hatred and xenophobia. We do not want to whitewash over the deep differences between the guilty and their victims. We are not saying that we are all guilty or that we have all suffered in the same way. Thus those of us who come from Western European countries have a special concern to say explicitly that during those times many of us turned away from the suffering of Christians who had to live in countries under Communist rule. We are not talking about forgetting. There is more at stake than just respect for our memories. We see reconciliation among us as constantly trying anew to take the bitterness and repression out of our memories and in this way to allow them to be healed.

Reconciliation is n o substitute for justice and truth

(A21) We would like to state explicitly that the message of reconciliation does not set aside the search for justice and truth. Unfortunately the word "reconciliation" has been cheapened for many people because it has been used to play down guilt and to throw a mantle of false tolerance over events which need to be opened up to public criticism. Anyone who suffers injustice must be able to count upon juridical systems which are upheld by uncorrupted judges and guarantee a fair legal process, so that the plaintiff dignity may be restored and the injury suffered may be compensated. Anyone who breaks the law must reckon with being punished. The person who has committed an injustice has no right to demand reconciliation, neither can the readiness to forgive be expected automatically from the injured person.

Grace goes beyond justice

(A22) Nevertheless we maintain that the laws, which human beings have to make and keep, must also be sustained by God's compassion. This is the only protection from the danger of law becoming the instrument of power struggles or selfish interests. God's reconciliation goes further than any atonement, satisfaction or correction which our legal systems can bring about, for it can heal our wounded lives and restore our self-worth. When we are touched by the power of this reconciliation, we no longer need to count and compare our sufferings, and also can stop denying and repressing our guilt. As those who have received never-ending, immeasurable grace from God, we learn that grace is greater than law.

In the school of mercy

(A23) "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful", says Luke 6.36. One of the many, often unknown, witnesses to this message was St. Isaac the Syrian, (7th century). He suggested that our lives as Christians should be like entering "a school of mercy". He was totally convinced that the Spirit, of the God of mercy wanted to create in us a "compassionate heart". "What is a compassionate heart? It is the heart which is consumed for the sake of the whole creation, for human beings, birds, animals, demons, and for every creature... his great pity makes his heart humble, and he cannot bear to hear or see any harm done or any sorrow in the creation..." (from the 71st Homily). In these words we discover a spirituality of "suffering with" God's creation, which recalls the radical humility and poverty of many Christian reform movements, notably that of St. Francis of Assisi. This "suffering with" is much more than sympathy or pity. It is derived from the full knowledge of the victims' suffering. Thus it looks for possibilities to restore those who have been humiliated, and also asks the perpetrators to let go of their false power. Restoring and correcting, giving up and letting go form the basis of the practice of reconciliation. It finds its full expression in the commandment of Jesus, "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 13.34,35). To live this compassionate and mutual love is necessary and possible.

The flow of love between generations

(A24) "The school of mercy" exists also in our own time and in many places. It finds its first expression in the family. Many women and men, grandparents, parents and children, relatives and friends give daily proof of this in the reality of an unheralded and inconspicuous compassion. A stream of love flows from one generation to the next. It is maintained without great speeches, wherever disputes are cleared up, wherever bad deeds are repaid with good and people try to win over those who oppose them with friendliness and love (cf. Mt 5.44). Because we know how far-reaching the conflicts between generations are, and how wid espread is inter-generational violence, we reaffirm the importance of the work of reconciliation between the sexes and the generations. Affirming the dignity of our elders, and the dignity of our young, protecting the weak and safeguarding children's right to life, including that of the unborn, are measures of the humanity of our societies. It is a great challenge to the churches to reaffirm the dignity and holiness of life.

Those who are reconciled are workers for joy

(A25) In "the school of mercy", the visible unity ("koinonia") of the churches is one of the main subjects to be pursued. The Apostle admonishes the Christians of Ephesus: "... to lead a life worthy of the calling... bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph 4.1b-3). We have every reason to be thankful for the ways in which we have come closer to each other. We refer, for instance, to t he statement of the 5th Joint Ecumenical Encounter of CEC and CCEE (Santiago de Compostela, 1992), the Leuenberg, Meissen and Porvoo Agreements. At the same time we are bound to note that there are new difficulties and complex situations which challenge us to imagine fresh initiatives. Like the generations before us, we are called to strive for the visible unity that Christ wills for us. We owe it to the world to preserve the word of reconciliation within and among our churches. This means naming honestly the things which still divide us, so as to overcome reservations and suspicion. This also means doing together everything which we in good conscience can do. That is more than we commonly think. Women have shown special ingenuity in developing a spirituality of sharing, advocacy and celebration. The Apostle Paul states „I do not mean to imply that we lord it over your faith; rather, we are workers with you for your joy, because you stand firm in the faith" (2. Cor 1.24). Th is includes prayer and intercession, sharing ministries in our neighbourhoods and cities, joint educational training schemes, diaconal projects and common programmes of outreach and mission. We also consider it important for majority churches to respect and support the concerns of minority churches in their respective countries.

Reconciled partnership and the dialogue with other religions and cultures

(A26) We try to take to heart that God "is not far from each one of us", as the Apostle Paul testified to the Athenians (Acts 17.27). Loyalty to our faith should go together with respect for the insights of those of other faiths. There is an urgent task for churches to reflect on the relationship between Gospel and Culture. It is also important to reflect on our mission practices. How important this attitude is becomes clear when we remember the religious wars which have left a trail of blood throughout the history of our continent. To this day, religious differences are in danger of becoming the instruments of political conflicts. Therefore we in the churches have the responsibility to stand up, actively and with conviction, for doing away with inherited enemy stereotypes and for creating lasting systems of alliance. We must not allow different religious convictions to be used to justify armed conflicts. This means, for ourselves as well, working to dispel misunderstandings and rivalries with regard to other religions. In the face of all who proclaim an inevitable "clash of civilizations", we seek to promote tolerance and cooperation. We see an especially urgent task in relation to Islam, not only because around 30 million Muslims live in Europe today, but because Christianity and Islam have a long and bitter history of recrimination and enmity which must be overcome in a spirit of neighbourly reconciliation. Young people have a significant role to play in inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue today. The process of globalization, increased mobility and more effective means of communication have helped create new opportunities for such dialogue, and a new openness and tolerance toward diversity.

Protecting the weak - a more merciful economy

(A27) Europe is actually a rich continent, not only in terms of its natural resources, but also in its tradition of human initiative and creativity. Even so, the hosts of the unemployed, those receiving social welfare, the number of homeless and needy continue to grow. The political freedom and strengthening of democracy which have made such heartening progress in our nations since 1989 increased still more the diversification of economic and social conditions. Those who suffer the most are old people, large families, single mothers and young people. Differently-abled persons are marginalized more than ever, although some countries have attempted to improve their opportunities for self-realization. Asylum seeke rs are increasingly turned away all over Europe, while incidents of racism are more frequent everywhere.

(A28) In the mirror of God's compassion, our competitive society, moulded by narrow monetary interests and intensified greed for profits, appears profoundly inconsiderate and unmerciful. We in the churches stand for the development of economic systems which are aimed at protecting the weak in all parts of the earth, and are oriented to the inherent values of all human beings. We are seeking systems which enable them to develop creativity not only for profit, but also for solidarity and for solving social problems through partnerships of the State with individual and collective initiative. It is harmful and senseless to make Europe into a fortress which tries to wall itself off from the poverty of other continents. In the same way, the right to life of coming generations demands that we who are alive today stop shuffling off the costs of our economic mismanagement onto the futu re. The consequences of reconciliation lead also to giving up excessive profits and immoderate consumption. It is our task to develop criteria for social, economic and political solutions which allow us to evaluate them insofar as they relate to human dignity, justice, freedom and solidarity.

Reconciliation and politics of peace

(A29) The realm of politics is an important arena for reconciliation. We stand for the development of concepts of security which embrace all of Europe and which avoid making Europe a threat to other parts of the world. The development of common democratic institutions, and of the political and economic cooperation of the whole European region, will strengthen its stability and diminish the danger of conflict. On the other hand, if parts of Europe are left in a security vacuum, opportunities for the political manipulation of old tensions could increase. The European Institutions should serve as instruments of reconciliation and t owards the creation of a Europe without dividing lines, where security is sought in cooperation and not through deterrence. We reaffirm the statement of the Basel Assembly that "there are no situations in our countries or on our continent in which violence is required or justified" (cf. No. 61). We will not be shaken in our conviction that reconciliation is possible among peoples, even though this term has often been wrongly used. Therefore we are in favour of promoting the development and furthering voluntary services for justice, peace and the integrity of creation.

Reconciliation in the household of life

(A30) We happen to be the first generation in the long history of humanity to be able to see this earth from afar. We now know it as the "blue planet", surrounded by thin layers of air and gases, seemingly lost in the vast reaches of the universe. It is all the more amazing to us that this earth should accommodate such an immeasurab le diversity of living creatures. We are beginning to learn that this planet is small, finite and vulnerable, whereas we used to think of it as "a world without end". That is why we allowed ourselves the freedom to exploit the resources of the earth without considering their intrinsic worth and without respecting their limits. Now we are realizing that we are overstepping the limits of their sustainability and thus laying waste the household of the living which is also our home. Reconciliation with Nature thus means for us, among other things, working for the functioning integrity of climatic conditions and ecological systems, and recognizing the need for precaution in intervening in the genetic make-up of all species.

Reconciliation and world-wide redistribution of wealth

(A31) The history of Europe and also that of our churches is interconnected in a multiplicity of ways with the history of other continents. The age of colonialism has given way to a new era where great powers are pressing their claims to rule. Europe though remains a significant global power, and current plans to strengthen and broaden the European Union must be guided by the recognition of global responsibility. In the so-called "Global Village", however, it becomes increasingly difficult for the State alone to deliver what people expect for a good life. But with increasing globalization there is the very real danger that human beings become subordinated to market and commercial forces. As people of faith we cannot accept that wealth be concentrated in the hands of a privileged few. Global opportunity must be matched by global regulation and global marketing by global networking in solidarity. The earth is our precious but vulnerable home. We need carefully to monitor our contribution to the environmental debt and reassess the apportionment of financial debt among the peoples of the earth because one essential precondition is forgiveness of deb t. True reconciliation also calls us to examine the sustainability of current management, production and consumption practices. Our readiness to let go of unfair advantage is a vital prerequisite for a more just distribution and safeguarding of the earth's resources.

Reconciliation - accepting that we are finite

(A32) Reconciliation is not just a matter of ethical challenges. The idea of letting go and renunciation points to questions at the core of human existence. Behind the striving to have, to possess, to control and to defend everything possible we recognise the illusory effort to deny the proximity of death, or at least to secure oneself against the risks of life and keep them under as much control as possible. However, as soon as we get used to the fact that we are finite, we become open to the possibilities we have as human beings and other creatures sharing a finite world. When we learn "to count our days" (Ps 90.12), we come nearer t he measure of our humanity and thus nearer to the measure of sustainability for all creatures. In speaking of "the school of mercy" we are not talking about an enclave of contemplation, but rather a resistance movement against the widely accepted tendency to divide people into "winners" and "losers" and to assign values to them accordingly. We know that we are finite human beings, and yet we believe that we have the hope of a new heaven and a new earth. The horizon of expectation of the Reign of God goes along with us and helps us to find our measure as mortals and to struggle against all temptations to omnipotence and superiority. The Magnificat of the Mother of Jesus reminds us that God brings down the powerful from their thrones and lifts up the lowly (cf. Lk 1.52).

(A33) Reconciliation claims our entire lives, but it is more than labour and cannot be compulsory. It remains a source of energy which comes to us from God and pr eserves us. This is why many of our churches understand repentance and reconciliation as a sacrament, as a deep dimension of our existence of which we easily lose sight in the hectic pace of everyday life. This sacramental dimension has been expressed in various ways in our churches, yet it is important to know how much we have in common. We insist that Sunday is more than a day off, and through services of worship we try to keep it holy. This is a way of witnessing that we human beings do not own time, but need to recognise our place in time. Every baptism points to the unique dignity of every human being. In the baptismal water we recognise the presence of the Spirit, who is the source of all life and makes us part of the body of Christ. In the celebration of the Eucharist we are ultimately celebrating our participation in the work of the Reconciler who gave his life, so that we might be made whole, and by his bruises be healed (cf. Is 53.5). Because he has reconciled us we are oblig ed to do everything we can to take the necessary steps towards the common celebration of the Eucharist.

Jubilee of reconciliation

(A34) The challenges and imperatives which face the Christian family of Europe are brought into the sharpest focus by the coming celebration of the millennium of the birth of Christ, our Lord and Saviour. This "year of the Lord's favour" is a crucial moment in our history when we are renewed in the anointing by the Spirit which makes us disciples of Christ. The Spirit sends us to proclaim "Good News". Our Christian faith demands that we strive for the freedom and dignity of all peoples. In our hunger for justice, we raise our voices on behalf of the poor and, in particular, for those countries whose future is threatened by crippling international debts and our greedy exploitation of their non-renewable resources. The Spirit calls us to be converted and renewed, as people reconciled to God and to one anoth er. The Spirit urges us to work and pray ceaselessly to remove the tragic divisions which so wound the body of Christ. The Spirit leads us into the third millennium, reminding us of Jesus' promise that he is always with us. The Spirit fills us with confidence and courage and with the recognition that we have been entrusted with the message and ministry of reconciliation.

(A35) Praying and listening to the Word of God have been a celebration of reconciliation for us during these days. In doing so we have experienced the gift of God, and we have been brought closer together, enabling us to discern the next steps which must be taken on our journey. We have been reminded of the marvels of the love of God and of our commitment to follow Jesus by loving our neighbour as ourselves. We have been encouraged to persevere and to hold fast to the expectation of the Reign of God. " Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation " (2 Cor 1.3).

* Adopted with 454 votes in favour, 5 votes against and 31 abstentions.


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