World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Update
150 route de Ferney, P.O. Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
E-mail: media

16 April 1999


cf. WCC Press Update of 25 March 1999
cf. WCC Press Release of 29 March 1999
cf. WCC Press Release of 31 March 1999
cf. WCC Press Update of 15 April 1999

An ecumenical delegation is visiting the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 16 - 18 April. The objective of the pastoral visit, which is jointly planned by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), is "to express our profound concern and solidarity with our member churches at a time of great crisis which will have serious implications for intra-European ecumenical relations, especially between the East and the West", explains Alex Belopopsky, WCC Europe secretary.

The delegation will meet in Belgrade with representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church and in Novi Sad with the church leaders of the Reformed Christian Church in Yugoslavia, the Slovak Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Yugoslavia and the Evangelical Methodist Church in Yugoslavia. The visit is being made as a response to an invitation issued by the member churches.

Further objectives of the visit are the exchange of perceptions of the violence and military conflict in the region, the forced exodus of the Kosovar Albanians as well as identify further ecumenical initiatives, including humanitarian assistance. The visit may also include meetings with representatives of churches and humanitarian organizations.

According to Huibert van Beek, WCC executive secretary, Church and Ecumenical Relations, there are also plans to send a separate delegation to Albania, which is welcomed by the Albanian Orthodox Church. It had been hoped that this visit could happen simultaneously with the delegation to Yugoslavia. "However, we respect Archbishop Anastasios’ request that the visit occur later as the church has to focus all its attention and energy on the refugee situation," van Beek explains. The diaconical wing of the Albanian Orthodox Church, Diaconia Agapes, is closely cooperating with ACT International - WCC’s and LWF’s ecumenical network for emergency response - in its efforts to provide humanitarian aid to the refugees from Kosovo.

The members of the delegation led by Rev. Dr Keith Clements, CEC general secretary are:
- Mr Alexander Belopopsky, WCC Europe secretary
- Rev. Dr Olli-Pekka Lassila, LWF Europe secretary

Members of the delegation are prepared to talk with journalists after their return from Yugoslavia.

For more information contact:
Karin Achtelstetter, Media Relations Officer
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (office);
e-mail: media
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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 336, 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.