Differences on Homosexuality Threaten Ecumenism: Russian Patriarch

Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, told leaders of the World Council of Churches that differences between Christians on the issue of homosexuality could undermine ecumenical dialogue. (Photo: V. Khodakov/Moscow Patriarchate)

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) expressed his concern that the deepening differences among Christians on doctrinal issues such as homosexuality are a threat to ecumenical dialogue.

Patriarch Kirill told officials from the World Council of Churches (WCC) on Monday that the attempts of some Protestant communities to "revise the standards of Christian morality" threaten the alienation of the Orthodox Church from the WCC, according to a statement released by the Moscow Patriarchate.

Kirill further noted that if the Orthodox Church would not have paid attention to these trends, there would have been a cause for schism within the group, which amasses some 300,000 million Christians worldwide.

"His Holiness challenged the council to articulate how it can contribute to build bridges in this situation," WCC General Secretary the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit said, noting that the present state of Christian dialogue is in "an ecumenical winter."

Tveit, who expressed his appreciation of Kirill's "deep commitment" to the WCC, highlighted the patriarch's leadership for the development of the church's mission, especially amongst youth.

"Bringing the younger generations to the faith is a common concern for all of our member churches", the general secretary said. "We have learnt about some of the initiatives taken in this regard under Kirill's leadership and I think all WCC member churches could benefit from them."

Kirill, meanwhile, noted that relations among different civilizations are "becoming even more meaningful," and said it is important for "all Christians to uphold Christian civilization and promote its good relationship" with other communities."

"Christianity in the counties belonging to Christian traditions needs common efforts of all Christians to be made for defending it from secular forces that are trying to impose anti-Christian and anti-religious state of opinion on the entire world," Kirill said, adding that the WCC can be the defender of the Christian values and promoter of dialogue with other groups.

The Russian Orthodox Church is the largest Eastern Orthodox Church in the world, with a membership of over 135 million. The church joined the WCC in 1961 and is currently the association's largest member. Five representatives from the ROC currently sitting on the WCC's 150-member Central Committee.

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