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Welcome address of Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz at the opening ceremony of the 4th European Catholic-Orthodox Forum “Religion and Cultural Diversity: Challenges for the Christian Churches in Europe”

Minsk, 2-6 June, 2014

Your Eminences, Excellencies, distinguished representatives of the authorities of the Republic of Belarus, brothers and sisters in Christ!
Welcome to Belarus, welcome to Minsk.

It’s a great honor and pleasure for us to host such representative delegations of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences and Orthodox Churches of our continent. This is the first time Belarus has organized such an important inter-confessional event. It is a sign of the good relations between our Churches, which is very important at a time full of challenges, tasks and dangers but also a time full of hope.

In such situations the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in Belarus bear witness to Gospel and Christian values by helping each other in different fields of our ministry, particularly in educational, cultural and charitable activities. For example, in several abortion clinics, together we organized a program of pastoral care for women, who intended to have an abortion. We work very closely with drug addicts and those who carry the HIV/AIDS virus, helping them and organizing prophylactic education. In these fields of our common activity we closely cooperate with the appropriate State authorities, which in turn help us to promote a good relationship between the Church and the State.

Bearing in mind the long history of brotherly relations and cooperation between our Churches, as well as the large number of mixed families in Belarus, our people are very pleased to see us as real brothers and sisters solving problems together. Good relations between our Churches are a real treasure within the Republic of Belarus and a very efficient means of evangelization. Saint Pope John Paul II used to say, that Europe must breathe with two lungs. Belarus is a good example of the realization of his dream, which is also being confirmed by the organization of this Fourth European Orthodox-Catholic Forum. As a result, some people in our country say that the Forum is a Small Ecumenical Council of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches!

The topic of the Forum “Religion and Cultural Diversity: Challenges for the Christian Churches in Europe” is extremely important for Christianity today, and for our Churches. It’s a sign of our common responsibility for the moral life of contemporary Europe which is rejecting spiritual values and lives as if God doesn’t exist and in spite of promoting a civilization of love and life, promotes a civilization of intolerance, even hatred, and the civilization of death. The process of globalization, development of science, technology, culture and new means of communication brought us closer, but did not make us brothers and sisters. In the name of a false understanding of the liberty of the children of God, parliaments of many European countries through democratic means have already approved laws that do not correspond to the divine and even natural law. As a result, in Europe there is a deep demographic crisis, the devaluation of the most precious gift of God, which is human life, the degradation and change of the conception of the Creator’s established institution of the family as one and the indestructible alliance between man and woman and so forth.

This litany of moral vices of the modern world can be prolonged without end. That is why regarding Christianity that well known question of William Shakespeare arises again: “To be or not to be”. We are responsible for the future of our religion and its application in the life of the modern human being in a multi cultural Europe, which has a very long and rich Christian history which, unfortunately, in our present time is becoming more secularized and more like a spiritual desert.

Common Declaration, signed by Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I on May 25, 2014 in Jerusalem states: “Yet even as we make this journey towards full communion we already have the duty to offer common witness to the love of God for all people by working together in the service of humanity, especially in defending the dignity of the human person at every stage of life and the sanctity of family based on marriage, in promoting peace and the common good, and in responding to the suffering that continues to afflict our world. We acknowledge that hunger, poverty, illiteracy, the inequitable distribution of resources must constantly be addressed. It is our duty to seek to build together a just and humane society in which no-one feels excluded or emarginated” http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2014/may/documents/papa-francesco_20140525_terra-santa-dichiarazione-congiunta.html).

I do hope that the Fourth Orthodox-Catholic Forum will attract the attention of people from the different nations and cultures of Europe to the current problems of the spiritual life and help to resolve them for the better, leading to a brighter future for our Continent which will cherish and not lose its Christian roots and will build a life on Gospel values.

I wish all of you success in your work and the abundant blessing of God, and do hope that your stay in Minsk will help you to deepen your knowledge of our country and the life of our Churches.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Адноўлена 02.06.2014 14:10

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