Sixty-three of the world’s one billion Christians met April 21–27 in Beirut, Lebanon, for closed-door strategy on economic development. This was the first time Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholics had met officially for such discussion, and some enthusiasts said it was the biggest cooperative effort since the East-West schism of 1054.
The official report won’t be out until sometime this month, but a conference “statement” revealed the basic position. It urged Christians everywhere “to campaign or lobby for development by all means at their disposal and to give governments, parties, leaders and agencies no peace until the whole human race can live with reasonable ease and hope in its planetary home.”
It also asked the Vatican and the World Council of Churches to set up the Beirut planning committee permanently as an “active agent of Christian education and action.”
The executive of the conference planning committee, Father George H. Dunne, is the first Roman Catholic to have headquarters at the WCC’s Geneva offices and the first person jointly appointed, paid, and directed by the Vatican and the WCC. Summing up Beirut, he said that for the first time the world’s three Christian groupings “are joining forces and pooling resources in a worldwide campaign to awaken mankind to a realization that an increasing chasm divides the rich from the poor, and to quicken the Christian conscience to a sense of responsibiltiy and of moral obligation.”
The impetus of the conference came first from disappointment among church leaders at the failure of United Nations development work and at lack of action by the Church itself (though one speaker noted that the Vatican and WCC churches spend $350 million a year on development, more ...1
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