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WELCOMING WORDS BY MR VAN DER LINDEN,
PRESIDENT OF THE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY
TO HIS HOLINESS PATRIARCH ALEXY II
OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA
(Strasbourg, Tuesday, 2 October 2007)
It is truly a great honour for me to welcome you to this Assembly.
I am extremely pleased that you have accepted my invitation to address, for the first time, an international political body.
Your historic visit to Strasbourg is the fruit of a close and constructive dialogue that we have developed through a series of personal meetings.
Your presence, and in particular your willingness to answer questions from our members, is highly symbolic of your openness to dialogue.
As a man of profound faith and compassionate humanity, you share the Council of Europe’s strong commitment to the most basic of rights, the right to live in dignity.
For the Council of Europe, this commitment is expressed through the promotion and protection of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Thanks to this universal mission, the Council of Europe, as a value community, has become a truly pan-European organisation.
The Assembly brings together democratically elected representatives from all of our continent’s peoples, cultures and religions, united around our common values.
This makes us a natural forum for inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue, one of the most important challenges of our times.
Your presence and address here today are also a clear expression of how you too have devoted your life to building bridges.
From the early 1960’s, you have been a leading figure in the ecumenical movement.
In particular, you have devoted much attention to cooperation between the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches – an important reflection of increasing European unity since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Under your patriarchy, the Inter-religious Council was established in Russia, bringing together representatives of the Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist religions.
This year, you have achieved the historic reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Outside of Russia.
Through your strong public condemnation of xenophobia, extremism and ethnically-motivated crimes, you have also shown your commitment to peace and mutual respect.
Your message of peace and understanding provides guidance to Russia and the rest of Europe on how we should move forward together.
I therefore look forward keenly to your address and have great pleasure in giving you the floor.