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Pour publication immédiate: 30 juin 2004

Georgian Orthodox leader willing to resume collaboration with WCC

The head of the Georgian Orthodox Church has expressed his willingness to resume collaboration with the World Council of Churches (WCC) following the first meeting of senior staff of the ecumenical body with the leadership of the church since its withdrawal from WCC in 1997.

Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II confirmed his church's interest in comments made following a meeting with a WCC staff delegation headed by WCC deputy general secretary Georges Lemopoulos in Tbilisi, Georgia. Accompanying Lemopoulos on the 27-29 June 2004 visit to Georgia were WCC staff members Sylvia Raulo and Tamara Grdzelidze. Among other issues, the church leaders expressed their interest in collaborating in the areas of social witness and service of the churches, as well as in response to the challenges of globalization and European integration.

The three-million member Georgian Orthodox Church withdrew from membership in the WCC and other ecumenical organizations in 1997 after criticism of WCC orientations, and citing internal opposition to ecumenical relations. In 1998, the WCC set up a Special Commission on Orthodox participation in the WCC which sought to address some of the concerns articulated by Orthodox member churches. The report of the Special Commission was the main focus of discussion during a meeting with members of the Georgian Orthodox Theological Commission and with members of the Holy Synod.

According to Lemopoulos, the meeting with the patriarch could be characterized as "promising" for future relationships between the WCC and the Georgian Orthodox Church. "The meeting confirmed that there is a mutual willingness to renew dialogue and cooperation, without ignoring the significant differences that persist," he said. Some sections of the Georgian Orthodox Church continue to express their opposition to ecumenical contacts.

The WCC delegation also met with government officials, notably the deputy minister of foreign affairs, Mr Kote Kavtaradze, and the chairman of the foreign relations committee, Mr Kote Gabashvili. Both leaders emphasized that the Georgian Church could play a significant role in the new situation in Georgia following the November 2003 "rose revolution", and encouraged the revival of international church relationships.

The Georgian Orthodox Church joined the WCC in 1961, and Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II served as one of the presidents of WCC between 1983 and 1991.

More information is available on our website:

- WCC press release of 6 June 2003 entitled "Orthodox participation in ecumenical movement: "There is no alternative to dialogue":

- Letter from participants in an international symposium on "Orthodox theology and the future of ecumenical dialogue: perspectives and problems", Thessaloniki, Greece, 1-3 June 2003, to H.B. Patriarch Maximos of Bulgaria and H.B. Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II of Georgia:

- Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC:

- Georgia country profile:

Informations complémentaires: Juan Michel,+41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363

Le Conseil œcuménique des Eglises s'attache à promouvoir l'unité des chrétiens dans la foi, le témoignage et le service, en vue d'un monde de justice et de paix. Communauté œcuménique d'Eglises fondée en 1948, le COE réunit aujourd'hui 349 Eglises protestantes, orthodoxes, anglicanes et autres, représentant plus de 560 millions de chrétiens; il travaille en coopération avec l'Eglise catholique romaine. Son secrétaire général est le Pasteur Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, de l'Eglise (luthérienne) de Norvège. Siège: Genève, Suisse.