(ENI) Europe's churches - Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant and Anglican - are hoping to sign a "European ecumenical charter" on Easter Sunday in the year 2001 to outline the main tasks for the churches in the new millennium.
The announcement was on 23 February, at a press conference in Rome by Dr Keith Clements, general secretary of the Conference of European Churches (which has as members Europe's Orthodox, Protestant and Anglican churches) and Monsignor Aldo Giordano, General Secretary of the Council of European (Roman Catholic) Bishops' Conferences (CCEE).
The press conference followed a three-day meeting of the CEC/CCEE joint committee, which included the presidents of the two organisations: Archbishop Miloslav Vlk, of Prague (CCEE), and Orthodox Metropolitan Jeremie of France (CEC).
Monsignor Giordano stressed that he hoped that the charter would be signed not only by the leaders of CEC and CCEE but also by the leaders of a number of their member churches "on the day of Easter in 2001, when the great feast of the resurrection of Jesus will be celebrated on the same date in all churches".
Easter Sunday - 15 April - is a highly significant date in 2001, as all the major churches will celebrate Easter on the same day. For the past 400 years, the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant churches have calculated the date of Easter differently to the Orthodox churches. But from time to time, the two calendars coincide, as in 2001.
One of the issues that the charter will have to address, according to Monsignor Giordano, is the question of "proselytism", which is of great concern to Orthodox churches in eastern Europe, which claim that their countries are being invaded by foreign missionaries from the west.
CEC and CCEE also hope that the signing of the charter will take place at a major gathering bringing together young people from across Europe and the leaders of the two organisations. The two events would "relaunch the spirit of Graz", they said, referring to the Second European Ecumenical Assembly held in Graz, Austria, last year, and which brought together more than 10 000 people.
"Inspired by Graz, where we debated reconciliation, we want to work together so that we can bring together in a fruitful way, both reality and utopia," Dr Clements told the press conference.
Dr Clements told ENI that the youth meeting would "not be a gathering 'of ' young people, but an encounter between young people and the leadership of CEC and CCEE". "We want to start a dialogue between Christian traditions and the new generations," he said.
CEC and CCEE have not yet decided on a site for the youth gathering, but hope that it will take place in eastern Europe, according to Dr Clements and Monsignor Giordano.