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Joan

Metropolita ortodoxo, Albania
 biografía

 I

The task of restoring unity is and must be always the goal of all Christians, because this is the will of God and His plan “to gather up all things in him [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10). Jesus Himself in His prayer for the Church and for all those who believe in Him, the whole body of believers in all times and places, clearly expresses His will: “that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21).). 
The vision of unity is central to the Gospel of Christ and the teachings of his apostles. The division among Christians contradicts the will of Christ and it is an unthinkable distortion of the reality of the church, damaging seriously the witness of the Gospel. Therefore, seeking for unity must remain always at the core of the essential mission of the church. It was precisely this understanding of the church that inspired the Ecumenical movement. We need to acknowledge that during recent decades we have made enormous progress. The interchristian dialogue has brought Churches and Christians closer, has helped them to understand better each other and to see each other no more as enemies. Unity, to be sure, as all of us agree, is not uniformity.
But, unfortunately, the ecumenical movement in Christianity seems to have stalled today. The enthusiasm and the hope that soon we would see a more visible unity among the churches proved to be unrealistic. Today, such hope and enthusiasm, with rare exceptions, it's faded a lot. A spirit of disappointment about interchristian dialogue and ecumenism, as well many serious and burning new issues and questions now confront us. Therefore, the question of whether the ecumenical movement has a future can be raised now in all churches and people involved in this movement and beyond. Responses vary from the most optimistic to the most pessimistic.
 
II
 
I would like to say some words about the participation of the Orthodox Church in the ecumenical movement and how she understands the unity. Although the decisions of the Synod of Crete (2016) have been interpreted in various ways, this Synod emphasizes clearly the aim and the responsibility of the Orthodox Church to seek for unity. “Orthodox participation in the movement to restore unity with other Christians in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is in no way foreign to the nature and history of the Orthodox Church, but rather represents a consistent expression of the apostolic faith and tradition in a new historical circumstances. The contemporary bilateral theological dialogues of the Orthodox Church and her participation in the Ecumenical Movement rest on this self-consciousness of Orthodoxy and her ecumenical spirit, with the aim of seeking the unity of all Christians on the basis of the truth of the faith and tradition of the ancient Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils.” (Synod of Crete, Relation of the Orthodox Church with the rest of Christian world)
But, while the Orthodox Church is involved seriously and with responsibility in dialogue with other Christians, she does not neglect or underestimate the doctrinal, ecclesiastical (such as sacramental understanding of the Body of Christ) and moral issues. Moreover, the most burning issues and difficulties that we encounter in this journey towards Christian unity are issues related with Christian morality. Some liberal Christian groups have gone to the extreme on some very sensitive moral and ethical issues. One extreme always feed the opposite extreme, and both can create obstacles for the dialogue.
In my humble opinion, there are precisely these moral and ethical issues, such as abortion, euthanasia, the attitude towards homosexuality, just mentioning few of them, that have created suspicion and fear among many people in Orthodox Church, making the participation in dialogue more difficult. Therefore, Ecumenism, for some of them, remains somewhat problematic. 
Seen only in the human dimension, it seems as if nothing can give us any more security for the future of ecumenism, and this situation may seem unchanging and even hopeless. But as Christians we should have an authentic hope, a deep Christian reliance on God's grace and spirit. With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible – says the Lord.(Matthew 19:26) In this sense, the Orthodox Church in her relations with the rest of the Christian world, relies not only on the human efforts of those involved in dialogue, but especially on the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the grace of the Lord, who prayed “that…all may be one” (Jn 17:21).
As conclusion I can say that “The Orthodox Church is aware that the movement to restore Christian unity is taking on new forms in order to respond to new circumstances and to address the new challenges of today’s world. The continued witness of the Orthodox Church to the divided Christian world on the basis of the apostolic tradition and faith is imperative. We pray that all Christians may work together so that the day may soon come when the Lord will fulfill the hope of the Orthodox Churches and there will be "one flock and one shepherd"(Jn 10:16). (Synod of Crete, Relation of the Orthodox Church with the rest of Christian world)