“Every individual must act responsibly”

Orthodox bishops publish "Letter to the Youth on Love – Sexuality – Marriage © Harald Oppitz (KNA)

With a long elaborated letter, the Orthodox bishops in Germany have addressed young Christians. The five-page letter deals with the topics of love and sexuality.

A "Letter to the Youth on Love – Sexuality – Marriage" was adopted by the Autumn Plenary Assembly of the Orthodox Bishops' Conference in Germany (OBKD) in Frankfurt am Main. According to the OBKD following Friday's meeting, the text is a handout prepared over three years of work.

In it, the bishops encourage young Christians to "responsibly address these ies and promote conversation within our church".

"No carte blanche for sexual permissiveness"

The five-page text addresses the topics of love and sexuality, interdenominational and interreligious marriages, and homosexuality. Emphasizes the need for individuals to act responsibly: "The task of our church is to accompany its faithful with spiritual counsel and not to formulate regulations mechanically. This is not a license for sexual permissiveness".

The bishops affirm that "according to Orthodox understanding, the mystery of marriage presupposes a union between a man and a woman and goes beyond an exclusively social perspective". That is why "the marriage of homosexual couples is not possible in our church.".

Open questions regarding homosexual people belonged "in the realm of pastoral care and tactful accompaniment by the Church". In principle, in view of the centuries-long oppression of homosexual people, it is "something good" that it is openly discussed today.

"Marriage much more than the wedding feast"

Also with regard to sexual relations before marriage, the bishops emphasize the responsibility of the individual and recommend open discussions with "competent people," especially "experienced spiritual counseling". For Christians, marriage is "more than a secular affair and, of course, much more than the wedding feast".

For marriages between Orthodox and other Christians, the bishops refer to the corresponding joint documents with the Catholic and Protestant Churches. The question of the common reception of communion remains unresolved; the position of the Orthodox Church is still that this is only possible "if there is complete unity in the faith.

Civil marriage as "viable path"

Marriage with a non-Christian partner is even more complicated, they say. In these cases, civil marriage offers a "viable path". It represented a legal safeguard and ensured that married couples had equal rights. A "religious act through which it becomes concrete that God blesses their community", which they long for, is not possible in the Orthodox Church.

"But we consider this longing to be completely justified," the bishops explain. For this reason, the Orthodox Church wants to "accompany interreligious couples on their journey through life, if this is desired".

The OBCD currently comprises 16 bishops from seven independent national churches. Three of the ten dioceses are currently headed by administrators. The Orthodox Church is the third largest Christian denomination in Germany after Catholics and Protestants, and according to estimates by the OBKD, it has about two million members.

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Christina Cherry
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