Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches Confront Secular Humanism
VIENNA -- There was a time when the Austrian capital served as a meeting point for the parties in the Cold War, where major steps were taken towards detente, disarmament, peaceful coexistence and, ultimately, an uneasy partnership between the East and West.
Something similar was taking place in Vienna last week, when prominent representatives of Eastern and Western Christianity met for an unprecedented three-day conference. The meeting, called "Give Europe a Soul," was the strongest sign so far that the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches are ready to close a bitter chapter in their own "cold war," in which they have competed aggressively over the past 20 years for prominence in the former Soviet Union after the demise of its official atheism.
On the one hand, the positions attained by the two churches have largely stabilized. On the other, the election last year of Pope Benedict XVI, whose conservatism is highly respected by the Orthodox, brought about a wave of optimism and a window of opportunity to improve relations between the world’s two largest and, theologically and socially, closest Christian denominations.
So strong is this expectation of a better relationship that the two sides managed to minimize the negative effect of the transfer last year of the see of the Greek Catholic archbishop of Ukraine -- the main arena of the confrontation between the two churches -- from Lviv (once Austrian Lemberg) to Kiev -- an event that would have caused a major uproar during the previous papacy of Pope John Paul II.
Add the understanding of a common foe, defined by the conference participants at variance as "moral relativism," "secular humanism," "collective amnesia," "neo-liberalism" and "militant secularism" -- and the stage is set for the discussion of an international public alliance that sets aside the remaining theological differences.
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