The 20th anniversary of the European Ecumenical Charter, known as the “Charta Oecumenica”, will be marked by European Churches on 22 April 2021. The document was signed in 2001 by the presidents of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) and Conference of European Churches (CEC) to promote closer collaboration and ecumenical dialogue in Europe.
Ahead of this milestone anniversary, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco and Reverend Christian Krieger, current Presidents of the CCEE and CEC respectively, have issued a joint statement in which they “give thanks to God for the peace we have experienced and the achievements of the global ecumenical movement”, noting that the “message of the Charta Oecumenica has contributed and given new vigour to this growth and transformation”.
At the same time, the two European Church leaders pointed out the new challenges that have emerged. “Old and new church divisions are in need of healing and societal and economic inequalities call for the transformation of our attitudes and structures.” In light of this and in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the joint statement reaffirmed “together and in a spirit of unity” the “commitment to witness to Christ as our Saviour.” While recognizing Christian unity does not result only from human efforts, they nonetheless stress that unity “must be perceptible in this world.”
The “Charta Oecumenica” outlines twelve goals, including: proclaiming the Gospel together; responding to the call for unity; working together; praying together; continuing dialogue; reconciling peoples and cultures; helping to shape Europe; safeguarding creation; deepening the communion with Judaism; promoting relations with Islam and other religions and visions of the world. The document reflects in particular that endeavours to reach consensus in faith and to deepen ecumenical fellowship must be based on a theological foundation, affirming, “There is no alternative to dialogue”.
Message of Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (22 April 2021).