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


24 June 1999

WCC AND CEC APPRECIATE SERBIAN ORTHODOX
CHURCH APPEAL


The World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Conference of European Churches (CEC) have expressed "sincere appreciation" for a June 15 statement, in which the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) called on "the Federal President and his government to resign in the name of the people and for the salvation of the people". In a joint pastoral letter to Patriarch Pavle issued here today, WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser and CEC general secretary, Rev. Dr Keith Clements, acknowledge the appealís "clear and courageous position". "Those of us in the WCC and CEC, and in the churches who have been in close relationship with you over the past years, knew that the SOC had been critical of the regime of M. Milosevic for a long time," they write.

They also stress SOCís "crucial role ... in assisting the Serbian nation and the faithful to come to terms with what has happened", as more "facts are being revealed about the atrocities of which the Kosovar Albanians have been victims". "It is our sincere hope that with time, the Serbian people and the Kosovar Albanians will be able again to live together in peace."

Assuring WCCís and CECís willingness to assist the Serbian Orthodox Church and other churches in "the present difficult situation as well as in the long term", Raiser and Clements stress the importance of reconciliation between the Serbian people and the Kosovar Albanians as being "the long-term objective of the churches and the international community".

The two general secretaries feel "moved and encouraged" by Patriarch Pavleís decision to move his residence temporarily to Pec - a decision which, they emphasize, "will certainly be an encouragement for many members of the Serbian community in Kosovo, persuading them to stay".

WCC and CEC are currently planning an ecumenical delegationís visit to Kosovo "to gain a better insight into the situation" and to investigate how the two organisations could assist the church.

Text of the pastoral letter from WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, and CEC general secretary, Rev. Dr Keith Clements to Patriarch Pavle, Serbian Orthodox Church:

"Your Holiness,

We greet you in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

On behalf of the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches we would like to express our sincere appreciation for the statement of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church on 15th June, which includes a call for the resignation of the president and the government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In taking this clear and courageous position the voice of the Church has been heard, not only in your country, but also by the international community and in the churches in Europe and beyond. Those of us in the WCC and CEC, and in the churches who have been in close relationship with you over the past years, knew that the Serbian Orthodox Church had been critical of the regime of Mr Milosevic for a long time. The statement has helped many better to understand the position of the Church.

We know that you have been concerned with the plight of the Kosovar Albanians. As more facts are being revealed about the atrocities of which they have been victims, we are aware of the crucial role the Church will be called to fulfill in assisting the Serbian nation and the faithful to come to terms with what has happened under the responsibility of the federal president and government.

We are moved and encouraged by the decision of your Holiness to move your patriarchal residence temporarily to the historic site of Pec. This will certainly be an encouragement for many members of the Serbian community in Kosovo, persuading them to stay. We are concerned about the lack of security for the Serbian community and support your call to the authorities of KFOR to provide swift and effective protection for everybody. We were particularly sad to learn about attacks directed at some of the monasteries, obliging Bishop Artemij and some of the monks to leave Prizren.

It is our sincere hope that with time, the Serbian people and the Kosovar Albanians will again be able to live together in peace. Reconciliation may take many years, but it must be the long-term objective of the churches and the international community. In this spirit, Your Holiness and the Church have consistently affirmed the right of all the refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes, and called on the Serbian people in Kosovo not to leave theirs. As WCC and CEC, we would like to assure you of our prayers and our willingness to assist the Serbian Orthodox Church, and the other churches, in the present difficult situation as well as in the long term.

With regard to humanitarian relief to all in need, Action by Churches Together (ACT), which is acting on behalf of the WCC and the Lutheran World Federation, is already in Kosovo. In the coming days and weeks ACT will establish cooperation with the Serbian Orthodox Church.

In order to discuss with Your Holiness, and with the bishops and clergy, other ways in which our organisations can be of assistance, and to gain a better insight into the situation, we are planning to send a WCC/CEC delegation to Kosovo next week, on 29th June to 1st July. We hope that Your Holiness will bless this initiative and will receive the delegation in Pec."

Please note that the report of the visit to Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia by a joint WCC/CEC delegation is now available online (cf. WCC press updates of 17 May & 28 May).


For more information contact:
WCC
Karin Achtelstetter, Media Relations Officer
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (office);
e-mail: media
CEC
Robin Gurney, Secretary for Communications & Information
tel.: (+41.22) 791.64.85
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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.