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EEA3, Sibiu, Romania

Greetings to the delegates and participants in the Third European Ecumenical Assembly, in Sibiu, Romania, 4-9 September 2007.

05 September 2007

Sibiu, Romania, 4-9 September 2007

by Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia

Your All Holiness

Your Beatitudes

Your Graces

Your Eminences

Venerable Priests, Reverends and Pastors

Ladies and Gentlemen

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is an honour and a privilege to greet the delegates and participants in the Third European Ecumenical Assembly on behalf of the 347 member churches of the World Council of Churches. This is the single largest regular gathering of Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant churches leaders in the world. The prayers, reflections, affirmations and the message of this ecumenical assembly will no doubt be a blessing to the churches around the world in their search for visible unity and common witness in Christ. Through the gathering here in Sibiu we are drawn to Christ, whose light shines upon all the Earth.

It is also with a sense of sadness that we have gathered in Romania at a time when we continue to mourn the loss of His Beatitude Teoctist, the beloved Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Few church leaders have been blessed to give over 70 years of service to the church, and through such turbulent times for their people. We continue to thank God for the life, witness and leadership of His Beatitude Patriarch Teoctist. We shall miss his pastoral presence among us.

Also on behalf of the WCC fellowship of churches in Europe, I would like to thank both the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the European Conference of Catholic Bishops (ECCB) for their vision and dedication in preparing this event. The cooperation of Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant churches is an expression of a regionally viable and coherent ecumenical movement centred on Christ's prayer that we may be one, so that the world may believe.  I am eager to see how the continued cooperation among the churches might be strengthened through a common vision and ongoing collaboration, particularly in living out the affirmations of Charta Oecumenica.

The theme of this European Ecumenical Assembly is deep with meaning and challenge to the churches and I look forward to the discussions and the deliberations that will take place in the days to come. Indeed, the theme ‘the light of Christ shines upon all' and this affirmation of faith is the source of our ‘hope for renewal and unity in Europe'.

A light shining from the East

The European Ecumenical assemblies of Basel and Graz took place in predominantly Protestant and Roman Catholic contexts. In preparing the Third European Ecumenical Assembly, the churches of Europe turned their eyes toward the East, brining us to a predominantly Orthodox context, but also to the context of a renewed Europe - a part of Europe that has been awakened by changes, challenges and growing aspirations. The political and social changes in Europe have brought the churches closer together. Meeting in Romania is a sign of deepening fellowship, helping to heal the many schisms of the church that took place on European soil.

We expect to be strengthened by the spiritual and social witness of the churches gathered here, but also by the diverse witness of the churches in Romania.

A witness for renewal and unity in Europe

This European Ecumenical Assembly comes at a time of rapid integration by which the scars of Europe's past are being healed and the seeds of a common economic and political future are being sewn. This integration is far from being concluded, and indeed new challenges emerge everyday. The churches have played a considerable role in providing direction and leadership to the many processes that seek to promote reconciliation and strengthen cooperation in Europe. Now more than ever, the unity of the churches in Europe is needed to bear witness to a future that transcends the vision of a common economic and political future, to embrace a future in which abundant life in Jesus Christ gives hope to all people, everywhere. Never before in history have so many nations attempted such profound integration. The Christ-centred witness of the church in the face of these aspirations will be a source of renewal and unity for the churches in Europe.

We expect to hear the churches of Europe speak with one voice, not only concerning the future of those countries admitted to an integrated Europe, but also the future of people living in all European countries and the future of the millions of immigrants from Asia, Africa, the Americas, the Middle East and the Pacific, living and working in Europe.

A testimony to the world

The light of Christ has shown forth from Europe since the Gospel reached this continent through the Apostles. As the Gospel spread around the world, European Christians played a key role in providing direction and leadership to preserve the traditions of our living faith. Today, the churches of the world look to Europe for fellowship, mutual solidarity and accompaniment. Churches around the world have grown and flourished in the Gospel and they stand ready to accompany the churches in Europe, especially in the face of secularisation. They also look to the European churches for a resounding affirmation of the unity we seek and for their witness on the global stage.

We expect to hear a strong testimony of hope rooted in our unity in Christ, signifying that the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant churches gathered here are active, growing in faith and united in their witness to the Gospel.

On behalf of the churches sharing fellowship through the World Council of Churches, I pray that the Holy Spirit will be among us, leading us, challenging us and inspiring us to see more clearly the ways in which God is calling the One Church to bear witness to or faith in Jesus Christ - the light of the world.