The ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew the 1st, head of the Orthodox Church, strongly condemned violence committed in the name of religious fanaticism on Thursday evening. He spoke during a conference at the University of Louvain (KU Leuven) on the first day of his visit to Belgium. “We can never justify ethnic cleansing, and must react immediately to the forced migration of refugees and population displacement. We must condemn those who tear families apart in the name of false nationalism and religious fanaticism. God convinces and does not force. Violence is a foreign concept to him. If we ignore the discrimination of others, we deny the image of God that is in them”, the Patriarch said. He also called for a reinforcement of interreligious dialogue.
Bartholomew will be received by King Philippe, the Prime Minister, and finally the Foreign Minister Didier Reynders on Friday morning. An informal meeting will take place at the Catholic Church administrative center at 1pm. It will be between the members of the Episcopal Council for the Belgian Catholic Church and the members of the Orthodox Bishops of Benelux Council.
A conference on the Orthodox Church’s role in the Second Vatican Council will take place in the Jean Monnet Amphitheatre in Leuven on Saturday morning, from 9.30am to 12.30pm. The Patriarch will give a briefing on the future pan-orthodox council, planned for Spring 2016.
Bartholomew the 1st will end his visit by leading the liturgy at the Saint Archangels Michael and Gabriel Cathedral in Brussels on Sunday morning. His last visit was in 1996, when he was given an honorary Doctorate by the KU Leuven.