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In a June 18 address to the Conference of European Churches, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople strongly criticized a “’new ecumenism” that champions “traditionalistic values.”

“Some American evangelical Christians, who had previously considered Catholic and Orthodox Christians as pagans worshipping idols, now appear willing to work with certain Catholic and Orthodox Christians in order to support these values,” he said. This ‘new ecumenism’ has even gone so far as to anoint President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation as its political champion, and Patriarch Kirill of the Orthodox Church of Russia as its spiritual leader.”

“We see the consequences of this divisive and destructive mentality on full display in Russia’s current brutal attack against Ukraine as well as in its church’s justification for this war as the salvation of Ukraine from the alleged seduction of a godless, secular, and liberal West,” he continued. “Unfortunately, this ‘new ecumenism’ is essentially un-ecumenical, if not anti-ecumenical, insofar as it positions itself against other Christians who do not support its exclusive focus on such a set of values.”

“Today, the rhetoric of the so-called ‘culture wars’ has grievously compromised any potential for dialogue, damaging the very core of ecumenism, as Orthodox are pitted against Orthodox, Catholics against Catholics, Protestants against Protestants—sometimes united only in their disagreement and denunciation,” he added. “The globalization and consecration of these ‘culture wars’ are arguably the new challenge of ecumenism, the new issue that divides us as Christians, the new barrier that prevents us from listening to and learning from one another.”