A Meeting between the leaders of a Catholic charity and a Russian Orthodox prelate has been hailed as an important step forward in ecumenical co-operation aimed at stemming the tide of secularism.
Representatives of Aid to the Church in Need met in Moscow with Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad to express the need for joint action to oppose the creeping spread of relativism.
Concerns about developments in modern culture were a key theme of the meeting between Metropolitan Kirill, who is chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department of external church relations, and the ACN delegation led by international president Father Joaquín Alliende and secretary general Pierre-Marie Morel.
During the discussions there was wide agreement on the need for a common position defending Christian ethics and the Christian world view, against a decline in moral values and growing moral relativism.
Shortly before his election to the Holy See, Pope Benedict XVI spoke out against the “dictatorship of relativism, which does not recognise anything as definitive and has as its highest value one’s own ego and one’s own desires”.
In an interview in Murcia, Spain, in 2002, Ratzinger(Pope Benedict XVI) suggested that relativism remains the largest problem for those who wish to convince others of the truths of Catholic belief. He noted that general opinion today holds that "whoever is not a relativist is someone who is intolerant. To think that one can understand the essential truth is already seen as something intolerant." The pope suggests that there is a dilemma regarding doctrine and dialogue: On the one hand, the denial of absolute truth overturns the permanence of Christian doctrine, while on the other, to maintain the certainty of truth often is taken by non-Catholics as intolerance for other religious or worldviews. In other words, the issue for many is one of freedom, and relativism provides a sense of being liberated from an accountability to truth.
Relativism and pluralism are linked, for any assertion that one religion cannot be the bearer of absolute truth draws the conclusion that all religions are of equal value. The religious pluralism caused by relativism leads to a mentality of indifferentism that, as Pope John Paul II stated in Redemptoris Missio, is
"characterized by a religious relativism that leads to the belief that ‘one religion is as good as another.’"
Last May, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said that ACN’s work was central to promoting relations with the Russian Orthodox Church.
In an ACN-funded initiative last April, the Pope appeared on Russian state television and underlined the importance of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches working more closely.
Last year, ACN gave over $4 million to support Church communities in Russia, prioritising help for the Catholic Church but also some giving help to the Russian Orthodox Church as well as ecumenical projects.
Both Catholic and Russian Orthodox leaders have expressed concerns about relativism in recent years with Patriarch Alexy II calling on the need to tackle “negative anti-Christian tendencies” in Europe.