World Council of Churches Office of Communication
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20 June 2001

Visit to the Russian Orthodox Church by an ecumenical delegation

Speaking after a visit to the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) by a delegation from the World Council of Churches (WCC), Bishop Eberhard Renz of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) said the outcome had been positive. Conversations with ROC leaders had mainly covered two documents adopted by the ROC Council of Bishops: "Bases of Social Doctrine" and "Basic Principles of the Russian Orthodox Church's Attitude to other Christian Confessions". Renz, who is a WCC president and headed the six-member team, said the conversations had helped give the delegation a better understanding of the context in which the two documents originally emerged.

According to Renz, the discussions had made clear that the two documents were meant for internal use, to give guidance to clergy and concerned lay people. He also stressed that despite their internal nature, the ROC was open to discussion and comments on the documents from other Orthodox churches as well as from WCC and Conference of European Churches (CEC) member churches. One suggestion brought back to Geneva from Moscow was for a seminar to discuss the two documents.

Similar views were expressed by Father Michael Tita of the Romanian Orthodox Church, who said the visit had clarified the documents' genesis. Both Metropolitan Philaret of Minsk and Metropolitan Kyrill of Smolensk had stressed that the quasi unanimous acceptance of the two documents was a remarkable achievement, given the critical reserve with which ecumenical matters are regarded in many places within the ROC.

For the Russian Orthodox Church, the WCC visit offered an opportunity to talk frankly and openly about outstanding problems, said Deacon Andrei Eliseev, a member of the Secretariat for Inter-Christian Affairs (DECRMP). The WCC delegation's willingness to discuss inter-Christian matters and listen with an open mind to the concerns of the ROC had been welcomed on the Russian side.

In addition, as Teny Pirri-Simonian of the WCC team on Church and Ecumenical Relations pointed out, ROC representatives had stressed several times that their church remained attached to the WCC despite its critical questions about WCC structures and organization and the orientation of its work.

The last official visit to the ROC by an ecumenical delegation was in early 1998, when WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser met with His Holiness Alexei II, head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Members of the WCC Delegation:
Dr Peter Bouteneff, Orthodox Church in America
Rev. Dr Bruce W. Robbins, United Methodist Church
Pleuntje Robbers-van Berkel, Netherlands Reformed Church / Conference of European Churches (CEC)
Bishop Eberhard Renz, Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD)
Teny Anoushavan Pirri-Simonian, WCC
Father Michael Tita, Romanian Orthodox Church

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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 342, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.