Orthodox leader urges Christians to pull together

With the altar of Vienna's main Roman Catholic cathedral providing a symbolic backdrop, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians urged all believers Tuesday to overcome the "scandal of division" and work for unity.

Orthodox leader urges Christians to pull together
Patriarch Bartholomew I's plea for greater dialogue gave another boost to efforts to end a millennium of tension and mistrust between the world's 250 million Orthodox believers and 1 billion Roman Catholics, whose churches split in the Great Schism of 1054.

"Separated and split, Christianity loses its credibility," Bartholomew said in a speech at St. Stephen's Cathedral, where he was being awarded an Austrian prize given annually to honor attempts at tolerance and reconciliation between religions.

"We can live in unity and harmony, without suppression, without fanaticism, without exploitation, without polemics and without arguments," he said.

Bartholomew's message comes five months after his milestone meeting in Ýstanbul with Pope Benedict XVI, who hopes to improve relations with Russian Orthodox leaders enough to make an eventual pilgrimage to Moscow.

Tensions with the Orthodox Church in Russia kept Benedict's predecessor, the late John Paul II, from making a long-hoped-for visit there.

In a sign of how frosty relations have been thawing, Benedict was meeting at the Vatican on Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the highest-level Catholic-Kremlin talks in more than three years.

The bearded, robed Orthodox leader spoke warmly of the pope as "our very much-loved brother" during his stop at the Vienna cathedral to receive the Cardinal Koenig Prize.

The award is given annually in honor of the late Cardinal Franz Koenig, a church diplomat who helped set Vatican policy toward other religions and postwar communist regimes and had forged a friendship with Bartholomew. Organizer Heinz Nussbaumer said Bartholomew was chosen as the 2007 recipient because he is "a true brother in spirit."

Bartholomew also expressed deep concern about climate change and pollution, rebuking the faithful "for letting God's creation, which today suffers so much, become an object of exploitation."

"The clock is already striking twelve! If we do not immediately recognize the signs of the times and act accordingly, we can expect ever more devastating natural catastrophes for which egocentric humans alone are responsible," he warned.

Earlier Tuesday, Bartholomew visited a Greek Orthodox church in the capital's Fleischmarkt neighborhood and met with Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik and the papal nuncio in Vienna. Bartholomew's five-day visit to the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country runs through Friday.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16