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10.05.05 08:06 Age: 7 yrs

Athens archbishop defies protests, invites dialogue

Orthodox have role to play in Christian family, Christodoulos says

ATHENS (ENI)— The leader of Greece's Orthodox church pledged on May 10 to join forces with Christians of other denominations to promote dialogue and common witness — despite opposition from some Orthodox church members and clergy.   

 "Orthodoxy has an important role to play within the wider Christian community faced with a growing hostility against our faith," Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens said as he welcomed more than 500 participants in a World Council of Churches' mission conference in Greece, where 98 per cent of the people belong to the Orthodox church.

The WCC Conference on World Mission and Evangelism in Athens is the latest in a series of such meetings going back to 1910, but the first to be held in a majority-Orthodox nation.

The (Orthodox Church of Greece is reported to have received many protests about the WCC conference. Christodoulos referred to the "vocal reactions of a segment of our Orthodox community against our decision to host this event."   

Meanwhile, the Greek church has faced a series of scandals recently, including accusations that suspected criminals were helped by a trial‑fixing ring composed of judges and churchmen.   

Many Orthodox Christians in Greece and elsewhere harbor resentment about the destruction of Constantinople, the capital of the Orthodox world, by Western Christians during the Crusades. More recently, missionary activities in traditionally Orthodox countries by some other denominations have created deep suspicion among Orthodox church leaders.  

Christodoulos said the Holy Synod of the (Orthodox) Church had invited the WCC to Greece ‘despite our past bitter experience (of) aggressive missionary activities and hostile actions against our people." 

"The historical wounds between churches, nations, smaller communities, even families, have to be treated in a spirit of humility and in an attempt of healing and reconciling people, as we look to the future," he added. 

 "The growing effect of globalization ...  the opening of the national frontiers and the increasing movement of populations from one place to another puts our Christian witness in a totally different situation," Christodoulos said. 

"Traditionally and historically mono‑religious societies are now becoming multi‑religious ... More and more people of other faiths live together with Christians and struggle with the same challenges of atheism, agnosticism and anti‑religious secularism."