Switzerland: Signing of the Charta Oecumenica

Source: FSSPX News


In the collegiate church of St. Ursanne, in the Jura, the representatives of the ten member Churches of the working Community of the Christian Churches of Switzerland, signed the European Ecumenical Charter, on January 23.

 The Charta Oecumenica had been signed in Strasburg in April 2001 by the presidents of the Conference of European Churches (Orthodox and Protestant) and the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe (Catholic). According to Bishop Kurt Koch, the bishop of Basel, this “signing (in Switzerland) represents a milestone on the road of the ecumenical community in Switzerland, even if we are still far from our objective which is the visible unity of Christians; but the Christian Churches are renewing their commitment to action in this direction.”

 The signatories are all members of the working Community of the Christian Churches in Switzerland (CTEC), founded in 1971. Its aim is to bear witness to the unity of the Churches founded and living in Jesus Christ, to work for the accomplishment of their mission and to encourage collaboration between Christians (article 1 of the statutes). It has currently ten member Churches: the Federation of Protestant Churches in Switzerland, the Roman Catholic Church, the Catholic Christian Church, the Evangelical Methodist Church, the Alliance of Baptist Parishes, the Salvation Army, the Alliance of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, the Orthodox Diocese of Switzerland of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Representation of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Switzerland and the Anglican Church. The signing was shown live on all three national television channels.

 “The Charter is a joint commitment with an eye to a growing collaboration between the Churches in Europe. This collaboration is not something which has to be dreamed up: it exists, it resists, it draws closer in spite of the difficulties which come back again or persist,” said Bishop Amédée Grab, president of the Swiss Bishops Conference, during a short speech. “Visible and total unity – which will not be total uniformity – can only be given to us. We must therefore ask for it. But we must also place ourselves at its service,” went on the bishop of Chur. “The media reminded us on Christmas Eve, that the recognized Churches melt like ice in the sun, or in any event, have to undertake some soul searching. We are ready for it, not to save our numbers but for the message to be heard, that it be faithful to life, respond to fears and expectations. And that God’s will be done,” added Bishop Grab, concluding: “The Churches and Christian communities, whatever their legal status, present or not at the heart of the working Community, are building, each according to its vocation, the house which God is building on the only established foundation: Jesus Christ”.

 Pastor Thomas Wipf, president of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Switzerland, introduced the signing of the document recalling that “many forms of ecumenical collaboration have already proved themselves.” “But we must not just remain where we are. We want to be faithful to the prayer of Jesus: he prayed to his Father that his disciples would be one, so that the world might believe,” he added. According to him, “the Churches no longer have to justify their reasons for working together, but they should explain their reasons for taking particular ways.”

 By this act, the signatories committed themselves – according to the terms of the Charter – to persevering in “a shared understanding of the Good News of salvation in Christ in the Gospel,” and to “work for the visible unity of the Church of Jesus Christ in the unique faith, which finds its expression in a baptism mutually recognized and in the Eucharistic Communion, as also in witness and service”. They recognize that “every person may choose his religious and ecclesial commitment in the freedom of his conscience”. Thus, according to the text of the Charter, “no-one should be pushed to convert through moral pressure or material incitement. Likewise, no-one should be prevented from converting according to his free decision.” The Churches then commit themselves to “promote an ecumenical opening and cooperation in Christian education, in initial and continuous theological formation, as well as in research,” to “act together at all levels in the life of the Church, where conditions allow, and where motives of faith or greater convenience do not oppose it” and to “defend the rights of minority groups and to help lessen in our country, the lack of understanding and prejudices between the majority and the minority Churches.”

 The signatories also wish “to strive towards the aim of Eucharistic Communion”. They wish to oppose “all attempts to abuse religion and the Church for ethnic and nationalistic ends.” On the social level, they are committed to “the promotion of the development of a lifestyle which runs counter to economic and consumerist pressures”.

 The Christian Churches will fight “all forms of anti-Semitism” and will work “with Muslims for common objectives.” They are committed to “being open to dialog with all men of good will, to pursue with them common goals and to show them a witness of Christian faith.”

 The Catholic-Christian bishop, Fritz-René Müller brought the celebration to a close by asking God: “Grant that all who invoke the name of Christ find unity. Break down the walls which separate us and protect us from that which is an obstacle to peace. Lord, we pray to You. May the day come when there will be only one flock and one shepherd,” before inviting his colleagues from the other Churches to pronounce the final common blessing.