Friday, 20 September 2019
greek english french
Home arrow Foreign Policy arrow Foreign Policy Issues arrow Ecclesiastical diplomacy

Ecclesiastical diplomacy

Greece maintains strong historical ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the other Greek Orthodox Patriarchates and the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches, and supports their initiatives on issues related to the interreligious and intercultural dialogue, the protection of religious freedom, the protection of the environment, and the religious heritage. It also maintains strong ties with the Holy Monastery of the Mount Sinai (Saint Catherine’s Monastery), the oldest Christian monastery, with unique spiritual and cultural treasures, a sacred place revered by Christians, Muslims and Jews.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs follows the activities of the World Council of Churches, the relations between the Orthodox Churches, as well as the relation of the Orthodox Church with other Christian Churches with which it maintains regular contacts. In the context of religious diplomacy, Greece supports and promotes international initiatives and interfaith contacts of its Christian, Muslim and Jewish institutions.

The dialogue among the Orthodox Churches and the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, convened from 16 to 27 June 2016 at the premises of the Orthodox Academy of Crete, have been followed with great interest by Orthodox Christians, Christians worldwide and people from around the globe. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had established a Special Committee of the Holy and Great Council for public sector coordination to support the organization.

The dialogue between the Orthodox Church and other Christian Churches and Confessions, in addition to its importance for the Church itself, has led to cooperation for the promotion of human values and the protection of the environment.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs attaches particular importance to the interreligious dialogue, which promotes respect for the rights of religious communities, enhances the understanding between religions and holds, alone or as an essential aspect of intercultural dialogue, an important position in international relations. It is an issue of high priority in the agenda of international organizations. Greece supports the action taken by the Greek Orthodox Churches in this respect.

With regard to the ongoing crisis in the Middle East region, where the Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and the Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai have been present for many centuries, Greece follows developments closely and expresses its strong interest for the protection of the local Christian communities, the Christian shrines and monuments.

In this context, the 1st International Conference on the religious and cultural pluralism and peaceful coexistence in the Middle East was organized in Athens in October 2015 on the initiative of the then Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias. Patriarchs of the Orthodox Church, Primates of Christian Churches, religious leaders and high representatives of the major world religions and prominent personalities of international politics, academic communities and civil society participated and intervened.

As a result of the 1st International Conference, a follow-up mechanism was established in Athens, in January 2016, in the form of the “Centre for Religious Pluralism in the Middle East”. The Center examines the situation, in terms of freedom of religion or belief and cultural pluralism, codifies the various problems and elaborates concrete proposals and viable solutions. This is implemented by (a) researching and reporting, mainly, on the non-Muslim communities in the Middle East; (b) knowledge diffusion via the official website that updates the developments regarding the religious communities; (c) establishing a dialogue forum. The goal is not to create a denunciatory discourse by highlighting the religious right violations; instead, CRPME aims to draw a historically evolving map of the social, economic and cultural developments of the various religious communities in the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

The 2nd International Conference -held in Athens in October 2017- overviewed main features and developments of religious pluralism in the Middle East for the period 2015 to 2017. It also focused on the future challenges religious pluralism will face in the region and proposed possible fields where religious coexistence and pluralism could be further developed. More specifically, the participants underlined the role of religious communities and leaders in shaping the development of policies related to refugees and migrants and stressed the important role media and education can play in both conflict prevention and in the course of a conflict (Statement of the Presidium of the 2nd Athens International Conference on "Religious and Cultural Pluralism and Peaceful Coexistence in the Middle East"). The 3rd International Conference on the religious and cultural pluralism and peaceful coexistence in the Middle East will be held in Athens in October 2019.

Mount Athos is the most important monastic center of the Orthodox Churchand a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Promoting the monastic community as a major cultural heritage center and its relations with the Greek State, constitutes a high priority of the ecclesiastical diplomacy. In this context, the supervision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Civil Governor of Mount Athos, in accordance with the provisions of Article 105 of the Greek Constitution, should also be mentioned.

Finally, there is constant cooperation with the Church of Greece on issues related to international activities, ecclesiastical diplomacy, and the promotion of religious tourism in Greece.