In the todays opening of the World Council of Churches 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe Dr. Agnes Abuom and Rev. Prof. Dr. Ioan Sauca set in their reports the agenda of the following days. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal President of Germany, found clear words regarding the role of the Russian Orthodox Church in the war of Russia against the Ukraine.
Abuom shared her hopes for this assembly:
“At its best, the assembly is a spiritual celebration of the power of God’s love to renew our minds and hearts so that we may become a countercultural force driven by solidarity with the most vulnerable people and God’s creation.“
And she asked all delegates and participants:
“Listen carefully to youth among us … They are the generation that is experiencing the first catastrophes of climate crisis and the last generation that can take any action to stop global warming.”
All decision during the assembly have to be made by consensus. “I trust that the assembly theme together with the consensus procedures and our shared commitment to go forward together in unity will also help us to address in constructive ways tensions and difficulties that divide humankind today,” she said.
Rev. Prof. Dr. Ioan Sauca as acting General Secretary related his report to the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace, the climate crisis, racial justice, the wounds caused by the war in Ukraine and other conflicts in the world, and advancing human rights in the Holy Land.
“Moreover, since reconciliation and unity cannot be achieved without justice and peace, this will be a natural continuation of the ecumenical paradigm that was coined at the time of our 10th Assembly in Busan, but now shaped and aligned in response to the needs of a world longing for reconciliation and unity,” he said. He spoke about the WCC visit to Israel and Palestine and said in his report:
„To those who accuse WCC as being anti-Semitic, I would say boldly that already in 1948 the WCC acknowledged the history of Christian anti-Judaism and denounced antisemitism as a sin. And while we are critical of some policies of the State of Israel, again since 1948, the WCC recognizes the State of Israel and respects the right of Israel to defend itself and take care of its citizens, within the perspective of international law. We oppose, reject, condemn, and denounce all forms of antisemitism. At the same time, we support equal human rights for Palestinians and oppose, reject, condemn, and denounce situations when these are not respected. Protesting against human rights violations when they occur and asking the Israeli government to protect all its people, whether they be Israeli or Palestinians, has nothing to do with antisemitism; it is a natural and normal exercise in any democratic society.“
The General Assembly was highly honored by the presence of the Federal President of Germany. „We are grateful that you have accepted the invitation to come here and hope that we will be good hosts. This event is intended to be a celebration of faith, of interaction, of exchange. It is rare for us to host guests who are so different but who are nonetheless connected by a deep sense of unity. Welcome!“ Regarding the war of Russia against the Ukraine he challenged the Orthodox Delegates especially from the Russian Orthodox Church. „The heads of the Russian Orthodox Church are currently leading their members and their entire church down a dangerous and indeed blasphemous path that goes against all that they believe. They are justifying a war of aggression against Ukraine – against their own and our own brothers and sisters in the faith. We have to speak out, also here in this room, in this Assembly, against this propaganda targeting the freedom and rights of the citizens of another country, this nationalism, which arbitrarily claims that a dictatorship’s imperial dreams of hegemony are God’s will.“
All these controversial issues will be on the agenda of the following days of the assembly and so we prayed in the opening service of the General Assembly:
We gather from all over the world, from
the eight regions of the World Council
of Churches , from diverse contexts, every
one of us created in your image.
We share the hope of meeting each other
in the warm embrace of Christ‘s love, that
moves us to reconciliation and unity.
We share the hope that our commitment
to your promise of a new world might be