Dhe World Council of Churches (WCC) assembly in Karlsruhe ended on Thursday without a formal dialogue between Ukrainian church representatives and the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The delegates from 352 member churches adopted a statement on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which essentially corresponds to the position formulated by the WCC central committee in June: the Russian war of aggression is condemned, as is the misuse of religious language to justify violence.
However, the WCC avoids naming the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). The ROC is the largest member church of the WCC; the Roman Catholic Church is limited to observer status there.
Russian delegation largely passive
The Moscow Patriarchate had sent a large delegation to the general assembly, which takes place every eight years, and was largely passive there. The Russian delegates were present in the plenum when church representatives from Ukraine described the atrocities of the war.
The Russian delegation did not agree with the statement on the war, but did not prevent it either, praising that the WCC had refrained from allegations despite “political pressure”. At the beginning of the General Assembly, Federal President Steinmeier demanded that the WCC clearly condemn the Moscow Patriarchate’s “ideology disguised as theology”.
Steinmeier also warned the WCC against anti-Semitism in view of a planned statement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The strong currents within the WCC prompted the General Assembly to condemn Israel as an “apartheid state”. Shortly before the decisive deliberations, EKD Bishop Petra Bosse-Huber also warned against such a decision, which would fundamentally change the position of the WCC. The accusation of apartheid prevents reconciliation.
The delegates then adopted a declaration on Thursday recognizing Israel’s right to exist while at the same time criticizing its occupation policy. The text also states that some churches strongly support the condemnation of this policy as “apartheid”, while others find it inappropriate. There is no consensus on this point. The term “apartheid”, which the EKD wanted to prevent, was anchored in the declaration.
However, EKD representatives described it as a success to have prevented further text proposals. The former EKD council chairman Heinrich Bedford-Strohm was elected the new chairman of the WCC central committee in Karlsruhe. The 150-strong body governs the WCC between assemblies.
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