Tuesday 22. October 2019
Meeting of the Presidents of the Bishops' Conferences of South Eastern Europe

Meeting of Bishops of South Eastern Europe

Shkoder, 10-11 March 2003

The "Village of peace" at Shkoder, in Albania, was the venue for a meeting (10-11 March 2003) of the Presidents of the seven Bishops' Conferences of the Balkans and South-East Europe. Throughout these regions (Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece, Serbia and Montenegro, Romania, and Turkey) the Catholic Church experiences similar situations of ecumenical and inter-religious relations. The meeting, hosted by the Metropolitan of Shkoder, Archbishop Angelo Massafra OFM, focused on the theme: "Ecumenism: from tolerance to dialogue for collaboration". Participants included the President and General Secretary of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE), the Apostolic Nuncio in Albania, the Apostolic Nuncio to the European Union, the Holy See's delegate to the European Council at Strasbourg, and the General Secretary of the Episcopal Commission for the European Community (COMECE). Archbishop Stanislaw Hocevar of Belgrade introduced the theme by asking the question: "Can we say that we suffer from the fact that the Christian body is divided?" If Christians from the South-east European nations experience the pain of division and a passion for unity, they can create schools of reconciliation that are important for the whole of Europe. It is possible to develop a new doctrine and practice of the spirituality of communion; to strengthen the network between the region's Episcopal Conferences; to concretize for these nations the commitments of the Charta Oecumenica which the Churches of Europe took on in April 2001; to rediscover elements proper to the Eastern tradition, such as the richness of symbols, the language of art, the sense of the sacred, the culture inherent in the various languages. The bishops present gave encouraging signals about the relationship between the different Churches and communities: new hope that persistent problems may yet be overcome is like a breath of fresh air. John Paul II's recent visits to Romania, Greece and Bulgaria; the reciprocal visits carried out by different delegations; joint pilgrimages; collaboration on themes of mutual interest, such as the family and ethical questions; agreement on supporting Christian values in the construction of Europe, show that prejudices are fading and that a common journey is possible. The Orthodox Metropolitan of Korca, Archbishop Joan Pelushi, delegate of Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and all Albania, emphasised ecumenism's contribution to stability in the Balkans. He stated that the Charta Oecumenica signalled a new opening: it is a matter of translating commitments into reality. During proceedings there was a lively round table discussion between the bishops and a group of young Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims, from Serbia and Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania. The young people suggested the themes: trafficking in human beings and drugs, corruption, human rights, the Churches' responsibilities and ecumenism, peace, the need to form people capable of political responsibilities. Following the tragedy in the Balkans, there is emerging among these young people a new awareness of and need for formation. The Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences are sure that these young people will be the protagonists of a new culture. The young people ended these few days dedicated to living the experience of the "peace mosaic" with the desire to transform the cultural, ethnic, religious and denominational differences into "stones" for a mutual project. Various participants stated that the time has come for reconciliation and stability in South-east Europe after all the tragic experiences, so that the nations of this region can bring their own values and culture to the construction of the common European household. The delegate of the President of the Albanian Republic and a representative of Shkoder's Muslim community emphasised the importance for Albania of a constructive relationship between the religions and the Christian denominations. John Paul II's urgent call and simply being present in a land which has experienced violence in its history, led the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences, at this moment of world crisis, to say a 'no' yet again to all forms of terrorism, to current conflicts and to the threat of war in Iraq. Prayer and fasting are urgent if the miracle of peace is to take place. The meeting ended with a solemn celebration in Shkoder Cathedral, in the presence of the Bishops and the Apostolic Administrators in Albania; prayers were offered that God may bestow the gift of unity among Christians and peace. Shkoder, 11 March 2003 The following Presidents of the South-East European Bishops' Conferences participated: Archbishop Angelo Massafra OFM - Albania Bishop Christo Proykov - Bulgaria Bishop Franjo Komarica - Bosnia-Herzegovina Archbishop Nicolaos Foscolos - Greece Archbishop Stanislaw Hocevar - Serbia and Montenegro Archbishop Ioan Robu - Romania Archbishop Louis Pelatre - Turkey Other participants: Archbishop Giovanni Bulaitis - Apostolic Nuncio in Albania Bishop Amedee Grab - CCEE President Archbishop Faustino Sainz Munoz - Apostolic Nuncio to the European Union Mgr Paul Gallagher - the Holy See's special delegate to the Council of Europe Mgr Noel Treanor - COMECE General Secretary Mgr Aldo Giordano - CCEE General Secretary

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