Church leaders from the United States and the Soviet Union got together in New York last week for a quiet celebration of 30 years of efforts to promote understanding.
Visiting officials of the Russian Orthodox Church and the officially recognized Baptist groups in the Soviet Union were guests of leaders of the National Council of Churches in New York City. A luncheon and worship service marked the end of the Soviets' two-week visit to this country.
Metropolitan Filaret of the Orthodox Church called the long-running exchange of visits "an inspiration on our way to peace" that is, he said, having an impact on relations between the two governments.
Bishop Philip Cousin, NCC president, said that Christians from the two nations "have demonstrated the desire to lift our hopes above political differences."
This year's visit of the Soviets was not all amicable. When the visiting Russian church leaders arrived in Chicago for a theological consultation, they were met by pickets -- local Ukrainian Catholics protesting the treatment of coreligionists in their homeland by the Orthodox there. After World War II, Stalin forced Ukrainian Catholics to join the Russian Orthodox Church, which led to continuing tensions between the two. The NCC general secretary, the Rev. Arie Brouwer, responded to the protests by arranging a private meeting of Filaret with a leader of the Chicago Ukrainian Catholics.