Russia: Summit of  religious representatives in Moscow

Source: FSSPX News


The Interreligious Council of Russia and the Interreligious Council of the Confederation of Independent States (CIS) organized the Summit of Religious Representatives in Moscow from July 3 to 5, 2006. It was presided over by Alexis II, Orthodox patriarch of Moscow and of all Russia.

“It will not be a theological summit”, declared the metropolitan Kirill, head of the Department for foreign relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow, who organized the event. “At present there is no mechanism of dialogue between the religions and the state on a global level”, he continued. The communiqué from the Holy See specified that this summit was “an exchange of viewpoints on certain themes, like the role of faith and religion in contemporary society, the problems of dialogue and collaboration between civilizations, the rights of man and moral responsibility, the defense of the family and of life, respect for religious sensibilities, the role of the media, and ecological responsibility”. The Patriarchate of Moscow also announced that the summit would deal with the question of terrorism.

Alexis II had invited representatives of the Catholic, Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant churches, as well as Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu representatives. The following were not invited: Benedict XVI (so as not to “mix historical events” declared the metropolitan Kirill), the Dalai Lama (so as not to indispose Beijing which is negotiating with the Tibetan Buddhists, according to the metropolitan Kirill also), Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, who is considered as the first authority in the Orthodox world, and the patriarchs of Alexandria , Jerusalem, and Antioch to whom Alexis II would have had to give precedence according to the protocol…

In a note dated July 1st, the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the Unity of Christians, declared that it had accepted the invitation.

The delegation of the Holy See, the most important among the 200 participants, was led by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the Unity of Christians. It also included Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture and Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, vice-dean of the College of cardinals and president emeritus of the Pontifical Council Justice and Peace, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, archbishop of Malines-Brussels, Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, Mgr. Diarmund Martin, archbishop of Dublin, Mgr. Sigitas Tamkevicius, archbishop of Kaunas, Mgr. Joseph Werth and Father Igor Kowalewski, respectively president and general secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Russian Federation.

On July 3rd Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, who was present for the opening session, warned the participants of the summit against a “conflict of civilizations” which leads to “divide the world according to ethnic groups and religions” and to set Christians against Muslims. He requested a broader inter-denominational dialogue and protested against the propaganda made by fundamentalist representatives who make use of religious feelings.

On July 4 Cardinal Walter Kasper read a message from Benedict XVI:  “This significant assembly of representatives of religions from the whole world emphasizes everyone’s commitment to the promotion of dialogue between civilizations and the quest for a peaceful and more just global order”. “Thanks to the sincere contribution of everyone, it will be possible to find ways, based on mutual respect and understanding, of cooperating efficiently”, and “this will enable us to meet modern challenges”.

The Iranian ayatollah Muhammad Ali Taskhiri expressed his gratitude to Vladimir Putin for promoting a meeting place with Islam, recalling that Islam is a religion of peace. Yona Metzger, the Ashkenazic Grand Rabbi of Israel, followed suit and continued by denouncing those who deny the Holocaust.

Also present were Samuel Kobia, General Secretary of the Ecumenical Council of Churches, patriarch Shenuda of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church and Baderddin Hassun, grand mufti of Syria.

To conclude this religious Summit, a declaration was published during the final session on July 5: “We condemn terrorism and fundamentalism of all kinds, as well as any attempt to use religion to justify them”. (…) “It is our duty to oppose hatred at any level: political, national and religious”. (…) The use of religion as a means to excite hatred or as a pretext to commit crimes against a person, against morals and humanity, constitutes one of the main challenges of modern times”. This declaration will be read by Vladimir Putin to the heads of States of the G8 who will meet in St. Petersburg from July 15 to 17.  For, “we want to tell them about our common values”, declared the metropolitan Kirill, head of the Department for foreign relations of the patriarchate.

This meeting did provoke some reactions:  “Officially the initiative for this summit belongs to the patriarchate of Moscow. In reality, everything was done in conjunction with the Kremlin, before the meeting of the G8, to give assurance that president Putin listens to the people”, declared Mgr. Sigitas Tamkevicius, archbishop of Kaunas (Lituania). “There is a risk that our presence be considered as carte blanche given to Vladimir Putin”, added Pastor Rüdiger Noll, from the Conference of European Churches.