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Credible Christian witness demands unity, WCC moderator warns



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A divided church voice cannot offer a credible witness in a broken and violent world, and cannot stand against the disintegrating forces of globalization, the 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) was warned today.


Catholicos Aram I, WCC central committee moderator, urged the churches "to learn to speak with one voice and rediscover the church´s prophetic vocation" in his report to the worldwide meeting taking place in Porto Alegre, Brazil, 14-23 February 2006.


"Only a church liberated from its self-captivity, a church in creative dialogue with its environment, a church courageously facing the problems of its times can become a living source of God's empowering, transforming and healing grace," he appealed.


Radical contemporary changes in church and society worldwide demand a fresh approach from the traditional ecumenical bodies, including the WCC, Aram I argued.


After a period of upheavals "we have entered a new period of ecumenical history. The Council must undergo a profound change and renewal in its way of thinking and acting, and of organizing and renewing its work," said Aram.


Globalization makes Christian relations with other faith communities a concern of "existential importance," he said. "In inter-religious dialogue, our truth claims cannot be compromised. Affirming our faithfulness to Christ, however, must not preclude engaging in dialogue and collaboration with other religions."


The WCC moderator warned of "emerging signs of polarization" in the ecumenical movement which were accompanied by a "steady disintegration" in many inter-church institutions. The growth of new organizations, and the development of bilateral theological dialogues, must be complemented by renewed efforts to ensure the "oneness, wholeness and integrity" of the ecumenical movement, he said.


Calling for an "aggiornamento" or renewal and transformation of ecumenism, Aram appealed to young people to become the "pioneers of a new ecumenical order," faithful to the gospel imperative and reshaping the vision of Christian unity at the start of the new century.


Catholicos Aram is primate of the Lebanon-based Armenian Apostolic Church (See of Cilicia). Elected as moderator at the Canberra Assembly in 1991, he completes his second term as moderator in Porto Alegre.


Assembly website:www.wcc-assembly.info