Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Vatican Wants to Make All Conversions "Equal"

Vatican, Churches Work on Conversion Plan

Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece - The Vatican and the world's largest alliance of Christian churches plan to seek a common code for religious conversions, a leader of the effort said Wednesday. The groups also will open contacts with Islam and other faiths to study ways to avoid conflicts.

Religious freedom and missionary outreach by Christian groups have become increasingly sensitive topics as many Muslims perceive their faith as under threat by the West and nations such as China struggle to maintain state controls on churches.

"How can we - anxious to maintain, develop and nurture good relations with people of other faiths - deal with this highly complex issue that sometimes threatens the fiber of living together?" said the Rev. Hans Ucko, head of the interreligious relations office for the World Council of Churches.

Envoys from the Vatican's office on interreligious dialogue and the Geneva-based WCC - which includes more than 350 mainline Protestant, Orthodox and related churches - are scheduled to open a four-day conference Friday near Rome to sketch out the broad outlines toward an eventual "code of conduct" on Christian conversions. The document could take at least three years to research and draft.

Members of other faiths, including Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims, also plan to attend the meeting in Velletri, about 25 miles southeast of Rome.

The biggest challenges to the project will be highlighted by who will be absent: Pentecostal and evangelical-style congregations that often lead the drive for conversions around the world and represent the fastest-growing bloc in Christianity.

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