Swiss Leaders Sign Ecumenical Guidelines

On Sunday 23rd January, major Christian leaders in Switzerland gathered at the Collégiale of St-Ursanne to endorse an important ecumenical document drawn by the Conference of European Churches (CEC). The event has signalled the commitment of Swiss churches for ecumenical dialogue and the common witness of the Christian churches in Europe.

The document entitled Charta Oecumenica laid down very clear guidelines based on the Bible for how European churches can be united as one, addressing the basis of faith, the fellowship in Christ and the common responsibility in Europe.

The CEC and the Council of Bishops’ Conferences in Europe (CCEE) were the first to sign the Charta at the Ecumenical Encounter in Strasbourg just after Easter 2001. To the CEC belong almost all Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, Old-Catholic and independent churches in Europe. In the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE) are represented all Roman Catholic Bishops' Conferences in Europe.

The Charta has been translated into more than 30 languages. It has increasingly been studied and discussed all over Europe, at every level from local parishes to theological seminaries. It has been officially signed by leaders of churches at national levels, as far as the Netherlands and Germany to Hungary.

Delegates from the CEC, General Secretary Rev. Dr Keith Clements and Study Secretary Rev. Prof. Viorel Ionita gave presentations on the ceremony in Switzerland yesterday. On behalf of the CEC, Rev Clements addressed the importance of the event and the Charta once again.

He described how the document was made, "the Charta was born out of a deep sense of longing for reconciliation, manifested at the 2nd European Ecumenical Assembly in Graz, 1997, on the theme ‘Reconciliation - Gift of God and Source of New Life.’ There, the idea was conceived that as a next stage in apprehending God’s promise of reconciliation among the churches themselves, an attempt should be made to produce a set of guidelines for the European churches, on how they should act together, towards one another other and towards the world in which they live, in faithfulness to the gospel."

The CEC believes the Charta is not just a gift to the churches by CEC and CCEE, but a gift of the European churches to each other.

Rev Clements congratulated the Swiss churches for further enriching and strengthening the ecumenical process as their leaders give their signatures to the document.

Here is a list of signatories to the Charta Oecumenica:

Mgr Fritz-René Müller
Bishop of the Old Catholic Church in Switzerland

Rev. Thomas Wipf
President of the Swiss Protestant Federation

Mgr Amédée Grab
President of the Swiss Bishops' Conference

Bishop Heinrich Bolleter
Bishop of the Methodist Church in Switzerland

Peter Deutsch
President of the Swiss Baptist Alliance

Commissioner Edouard Braun
Salvation Army

Edmund Henry Newman
President of the Lutheran Church in Switzerland

Mgr Makarios, Bishop of Lampasque
Orthodox Diocese of Switzerland (Ecumenical Patriarchate)

Damjan Miletic
Representative of the Parishes of the Orthodox Serbian Church in Switzerland

Brian C. Morgan
Representative of the Anglican Church in Switzerland