Patriarch Bartholomew I Calls for Catholic Participation in CEC

The CEC, the Conference of European Churches, has many member churches, Orthodox and Protestant alike, however, the Catholic Church is not amongst them. As reported in an ENI article, the Patriarch of Constantinople thinks Catholics need to be involved; cooperation amongst the Christians of Europe is necessary to help present Christ in a “convincing and effective way.”  Since Catholicism has provided the Christian heritage to all Western Europe, one might wonder, why Catholics are not a part of the CEC already? But then we must remember, as the CEC knows, that the Catholic Church, while promoting ecumenical dialogue, is cautious in its work with various “councils,” because there is fear that such a council could also look like a “church” and one which could then claim to be “more catholic than Catholicism.” It is for this reason the Catholic Church engages bi-lateral (and sometimes, tri-lateral) dialogues, though, to be sure, it has advisory position in other ecumenical affairs, such as in the WCC.  The Orthodox also have had similar concerns, but they have also worked to combat such assumptions, which has made them sometimes an important counter-point to what happens in such meetings.

But now the Patriarch thinks Europe needs the cooperation of the churches: “The future of the new Europe that is under construction is sombre and, indeed, uncertain, being built as it is without Christian spiritual values which touch on everything concerning the support and protection of human beings and their dignity.” Thus, he has asked Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon to go to the Vatican to see what can be done — can the Catholic Church join in the CEC?

What do you think?

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  • digbydolben

    Believe me, from what I can see from here (Deutschland), it is absolutely necessary.

    Everyone know that only a pope can convene a general council of the Roman Catholic Church and that every previous council was, indeed, called by the Bishop of Rome–often, as with Trent, under some duress, as provided by his brother bishops. There would be absolutely no confusion between the conference that the Patriarch of Constantinople is urging that the Roman Chuch attend and a general council.

    That conference, however, is essential for addressing such pressing European matters as how to deal with immigration, confrontations with certain aspects of Islamic non-assimilation, interfaith dialogue and ecumenical actions. Really, the Christians of Europe have a MUCH better chance of keeping Christian values at the forefront of culture and society, if they act in concert.

    Europe–even Protestant Europe–is not so much influenced anymore by the same kinds of Biblical fundamentalism or watered-down, vulgar Calvinism and “salvation-by-faith-alone” preposterousness (which OPPOSES, for theological reasons, Christian social justice action) as what affects American Christianity, and the Christian churches of Europe have much more in common with each other than those in America do.

    You can see it almost every day, in terms of interaction and cooperation among the various sects of Christianity in Germany, France, Belgium and Holland, and I expect to find the same thing when I go on holiday to Britain in a few hours.

  • digbydolben

    And, by the way, regarding the issue of abortion and the “common ground” that Catholics can seek to forge in opposing abortion, THIS is what the focus SHOULD be and what it will come to be much faster, I think, in Europe, than it ever could in America:

    Although it was swaddled in the language of individual empowerment, the ROE decision was a dramatic victory for collectivism: It enshrined, in what our rulers are pleased to call the “law,” the assumption that a human individual is a “person” only when that status is conferred by the government.

    While Harry Blackmun’s opinion in ROE pointedly avoided the question of when “personhood” begins, it emphatically made it clear that, for purposes of “law,” that the term doesn’t apply to any human individual in his or her pre-natal stage of development. This, not the liberty to procure an abortion, is the real gravamen, or central legal finding, in the ROE decision: It put the government in charge of defining who is, and isn’t a person.

    And, you see, THIS is why the theological issue of “ensoulment,” may NOT be so easily glided over as some of the anti-abortionist writers at Vox Nova wish it to be: it must be understood and MAINTAINED, as a matter of religious faith—and then, ultimately, as a principle of religious freedom—that “personhood” is defined by GOD. And only the Catholic Church has the traditional relationship with science, with classical theological learning, to use its authority to define when “ensoulment” takes place.

    The basis for it is already there, in my opinion, in the scholarship and religious traditions relating to the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception in the 19th century (i.e. Duns Scotus’ Marian speculation that the Virgin was given an “immaculate” soul after 80 days in the womb, etc.)

    I’m not saying that this is the only possible basis for a compromise agreement among all of the Christian Churches of Europe to resist the state-fascism of enforced eugenics policy, only that there MUST be an organized resistance based, finally, on a clear theological definition of what a “person” is—something in direct contradiction of the Roe v. Wade principle that “personhood” is whatever the Volk decide it is.

    Why do I think this is far more likely to happen in Europe? Because the collective European Christian resistance to abortion will be much less sentimental than the American one—much more closely tied to war and peace, as well as social justice issues, and much more aware of the historical connection between eugenics and fascism. There would be much less ready willingness, among the anti-abortion elements of European Christian society, to find justifications for such obscenities as “preventive war.”

  • Brian


    Thank you for your insightful comment. I would, however, like to offer one small correction or nuance. I’m not a lawyer and have no expertise regarding US law, but the US government was defining defining personhood long before Roe v. Wade.

    Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the US Constitution reads:

    Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

    The so-called three-fifths compromise was effectively repealed (in law if not necessarily in practice) by the Civil War amendments, most specifically the 14th. in 1879, the “Indians not taxed” clause was addressed in
    United States ex rel. Standing Bear v. Crook, when a US District Court ruled that “an Indian is a person.” It was another eleven years until the massacre of the Big Foot Band at Wounded Knee and 45 years until the Snyder Act granted citizenship to those Indians not already so designated.

    That said, the legal definition of person in the US is clearly not equivalent to the understanding of person for the Church.

  • Nick C

    The reference to Roe is well placed; the case gave power to the Federal government to decide who lives and who does not live. This is why several African Americans were surprised at Roe at first (sounds like Dred Scott), but they cast their lot with the liberals who somehow think Roe was a good decision. There is a small minority of avid liberals who oppose Roe, but they get no media attention.

  • Joshua B


    I would like to think that Pope Benedict, with his interest in Europe and unity, will find a way to have a presence there, but I’m not informed enough on ecumenical “politics” to understand the nuances and risks involved.

    What do you think ?

  • Pauli

    Why doesn’t the patriarch guy just join the Catholic church along with his friends?