High-level representatives of 33 traditional Christian communities of the former Soviet Union have called for closer co-operation among Christians. The appeal was made by participants at a conference in Moscow, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today and forever," (taken from Hebrews 13:8). The gathering was the third major event organized by the Christian Inter-confessional Consultative Committee.The consultative committee, set up in 1994, is an informal grouping of Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Baptist, and Lutheran churches, as well as Old Believers, Seventh-day Adventists and Pentecostals.The meeting, held late in November, was the first such gathering since Russia adopted a new law on religion in 1997. Some minority churches have criticized the law, claiming it discriminates against them, and this has increased tension between churches."Joint initiatives of Christians, who are united in a desire to do good for people, are highly important," Patriarch Alexei II, head of the region's biggest religious organization, the Russian Orthodox Church, said in his speech at the opening of the conference on November 23 in the St Daniel Hotel. The hotel is part of a complex linked to Danielovsky Monastery, which houses the offices of the church's Moscow Patriarchate.Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, read a message from Pope John Paul II, who was "greatly encouraged" by the inter-church initiative. International ecumenical organizations, such as the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches, as well as the Lutheran World Federation and several other major Christian organizations, sent representatives. During the three-day conference, ...

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