‘IRRESPECTIVE OF DIFFICULTIES, CHRISTIANS WILL STAY IN THE MIDDLE EAST’
SAID HIS HOLINESS ARAMI
On Thursday 23 May 2013, the International Conference on “Christian Presence and Witness in the Middle East” opened in Beirut. The conference was organized by the World Council of Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches. Around two hundred persons from Europe, North America and Africa were invited.
Rev. Masis Choboyan read the message of His Holiness Aram I. In his message, the Catholicos greeted the participants, saying, “You have come from different parts of the world to reflect with us on the events in the region and its challenges these represent to us.”
He then made the following points:
Christians of the Middle East, who are deeply rooted in their countries, are strongly committed to Christian-Muslim dialogue.
Although the Churches are currently facing great challenges, they are holding on to hope.
Despite their difficulties in the past, Christians have not cultivated hatred, but have always chosen the language of love. They have never accepted defeat and will continue their Christian witness inspired by faith, strengthened by hope and enabled by love.
For centuries Christians have existed with Islam. Although the relationship has not always been smooth, Christians and Muslims will continue to work together by upholding common values and seeking the road to coexistence.
As members of two Monotheistic religions and co-citizens, Christians and Muslims will stay together.
The Catholicos ended by stating: “As Christians we shall fulfill our duties and responsibilities and at the same time we shall remain attached to our religious and national rights as citizens and as communities.”
The Catholicos acknowledged the initiatives of the Vatican and the World Council of Churches to accompany the local churches. However, he asked churches outside the region not to work on their behalf, but to express the visible unity of the churches by empowering them in their witness and service to the Middle East.
The University in Salzbourg in cooperation with the Holy See of Etchmiadzin and the Holy See of Cilicia organized an international conference on “Monasticism in the Armenian Churches” from 14-17 April 2013.
The conference began with a Benedictine vespers at the St. Peter’s Cathedral. On Monday 15 April, Archbishop Nareg Alemezian the Ecumenical Officer and Dean of the Seminary presented a paper on the theme “The challenges to the Brotherhood of Cilicia in the 21st Century”. The conference then explored differences in monasticism between the East and the West, and different training programmes.
THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE MIDDLE EAST COUNCIL OF CHURCHES (MECC) MEETS IN ANTELIAS
As a President of the MECC, His Holiness Aram I presided over and hosted the meeting. The meeting began with a business session, during which the church representatives discussed administrative and financial issues, the situation of Christians in Syria and Egypt, humanitarian assistance to refugees and the urgency for Christian-Muslim dialogue.
During the second part of the meeting, the members received the report of the General Secretary and reports from programme staff. At the end of the session, the Executive Committee accepted the resignation of the General Secretary Father Paul Rouhana, who had recently been ordained as Bishop and appointed Dr. Michel Jalkh as interim General Secretary.
At the end of the meeting, the Executive Committee published a statement in which they thanked His Holiness for his hospitality and leadership, and then called upon Christians in the Middle East to remain in their respective countries, claim their rights and strengthen Christian-Muslim coexistence.
The next meeting of the Executive Committee will be held in December 2013, either in Egypt or Antelias.
Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian represented the Catholicosate at the enthronement of Justin Welby as the new Archbishop of Canterbury. Archbishop Moushegh later met with the Archbishop and conveyed the greetings of His Holiness Aram I.
Earlier, in a letter, Catholicos Aram I expressed his good wishes to Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and stated his hope that ecumenical relations between the two churches would be strengthened.
On Tuesday 19 March 2013, the delegates representing His Holiness Aram I attended the enthronement of Pope Francis I at St. Peter’s Cathedral. The delegation consisted of Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate of the Western Diocese of the USA, Archbishop Nareg Alemezian, Ecumenical Officer, and benefactors Alecco and Annie Bezikian. On Wednesday, the delegates met with Pope Francis I, congratulated him and transmitted the greetings of His Holiness Aram I. The Pope in return sent his greetings to His Holiness Aram I.
IN A CONFERENCE ON HUMAN RIGHTS
ORGANIZED BY THE MIDDLE EAST COUNCIL OF CHURCHES
Monday 11 March, 2013. His Holiness Aram I nominated Ms Mania Missirian to represent the Catholicosate at the Human Rights conference organized by the Unit on Life and Service of the Middle East Council of Churches. In her welcoming speech Ms Seta Hadeshian, the Director of the Unit welcomed the experts, church and civil society representatives, and hoped that their efforts would inspire the life-giving work of the Council and its networks.
On Sunday, 3 March 2013, Archbishop Avak Assadourian and Bishop Ashod Menatsakanian from the Holy See of Etchmiadzin and Archbishops Gorun Babian and Nareg Alemezian from the Holy See of Cilicia represented the Armenian Orthodox Church at the enthronement of His Holiness Patriarch Abuna Mathias in Addis Ababa.
During the ceremony, Archbishop Gorun read the message of His Holiness Aram I, who described the long historical relationship between the two sister churches and particularly the recent close relations with the late Patriarch Abuna Paulos. The Catholicos said that he looked forward to working in that same spirit with the new patriarch.
The visit to Addis Ababa was also an opportunity for the Armenian delegation to celebrate the Holy Liturgy at the St. Gregory Armenian Church and to greet the community.
The 10th session of the International Theological Dialogue Commission was held in Rome from 23 to 27 January 2013. The Armenian Church was represented by Archbishop Yeznik Bedrossian and Rev. Shahé Ananian from the Holy See of Etchmiadzin and Archbishops Oshagan Choloyan and Nareg Alemezian from the Catholicosate of Cilicia.
The representatives of the Oriental Orthodox Churches first met alone to discuss issues related to the family. The members of the joint commission discussed “The role of the Saints in the communion and communication between churches until the middle of the fifth century.”
The meeting ended with a dinner offered by Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. On 25 January the members of the dialogue commission met with Pope Benedict XVI, and in the evening they attended the Prayers for Christian Unity presided over by the Pope at the St. Peter’s Cathedral.
The eleventh meeting of the Roman Catholic - Oriental Orthodox Theological Commission will be held from 27 January to 4 February 2014 in India.
THE WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY CONCLUDES
AT ST. GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR CATHEDRAL, IN ANTELIAS
On Sunday 20 January 2013, the week of Prayer for Christian Unity began with an ecumenical prayer at the Syriac Catholic Church in Beirut where His Holiness Aram I was present among the other heads of religious communities in Lebanon. The final closing ecumenical prayers took place Sunday evening at the St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral of the Catholicosate of Cilicia.
FOR THE HOLY SEE OF CILICIA
In his recent press briefing, His Holiness Aram I emphasized the importance of Christian-Muslim dialogue in building culture of peace in the Middle East.
While mentioning some of the initiative of the Catholicosate, he referred to a recent meeting organized by the World Council of Churches and the Centre for Interreligious Dialogue (CID) of Iran, where Archbishop Sebouh Sarkissian, Prelate of Tehran represented the Holy See of Cilicia. He then added that, while Moderator of the World Council of Churches, he had strongly encouraged such a dialogue.
11–17 October 2012, the WCC Pre-assembly meeting of the Orthodox churches was held on Kos island, Greece. 40 clergy, laymen and laywomen represented the Orthodox Member Churches. Bishop Hovaguim Manoukian represented the Holy See of Etchmiadzin and Ms. Salpy Eskidjian, the Holy See of Cilicia.
The participants discussed the Assembly theme, “God of life, lead us to justice and peace,” and its implications for the ecumenical movement, the member churches and their commitment to the world.
Stated His Holiness Aram I
in his message to the Catholic Bishops Conference
on New Evangelization in the Vatican
From 7 to 28 October 2012, Pope Benedict XVI has been presiding over the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith. In response to the invitation to the Catholicosate of Cilicia, His Holiness Aram I sent an observer, Rev. Massis Zobouyan, who read the message of His Holiness Aram I.
In his message, the Catholicos stated that evangelization as the inculcation of moral and spiritual values, first among church people and then among those outside the church, is the mission and vocation of the Church. Fulfilling this vocation today is the challenge for all churches, and in the face of globalization and the negative forces at work in all societies, churches should find contextually relevant ways to transmit the Christian Faith.
At the end of his message, His Holiness Aram I thanked Pope Benedict XVI for the initiative and the invitation and he expressed his hope that Churches would work together in fulfilling their essential vocation of evangelization.
Pope Benedict XVIth presided the opening of the 16th Episcopal Conference on New Evanglization for the Transmission of Christian Faith, held in the Vatican. The Catholiosate of Cilicia was one of the fifteen non-Catholic Churches invited to the meeting.
His Holiness Aram I nominated Rev. Masis Zobouyan, Assistant director of the Department on Ecumenical Relations to represent the Catholicosate of Cilicia.
At the invitation of His All Holiness Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches met in Crete (Greece) to prepare for the next Assembly
The Armenian Orthodox Church was represented by Archbishop Vicken Aykazian and Ms Paula Der Matoyan from the Holy See of Etchmiadzin, and Archbishop Nareg Aykazian and Ms Teny Pirri-Simonian from the Holy See of Cilicia.
The Central Committee members focused on the 10th Assembly, which is to be held in South Korea in 2013. The members finalized the documents to be presented to the Assembly for discussion and action by the delegates of the Churches. The topics included: unity of the Church, mission and evangelism, environment and diakonia.
The Public Affairs Committee also discussed the situation in Syria and adopted a statement addressing the Christian presence in the Middle East and calling all warring parties in Syria to respect the will of the people for the sake of the common good.
4 September 2012. The 60th session of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches was held from 28 August to 5 September 2012, at the Orthodox Academy. The agenda of the meeting was primarily the preparation of the 10th Assembly to be held in South Korea in 2013. The reports assessed the programmatic priorities approved at the 9th Assembly under the Moderatorship of His Holiness Aram I.
The Central Committee members of the Catholicosate of Cilicia Archbishop Nareg Alemezian and Dr. Nora Bayrakdarian-Kabakian participated fully in the delibrations of the current Central Committee. Mag. Teny Pirri-Simonian substituted Dr. Bayrakdarian at this final meeting because of her inability to take part due to personal reasons.
REPRESENTATIVE OF THE CATHOLICOSATE OF CILICIA ATTENDS THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE MEETING
OF THE CHRISTIAN CONFERENCE OF ASIA (CCA)
1 September 2012. Upon the decision of His Holiness Aram I, the Diocese of Tehran (Iran) and the Holy See of Cilicia became a member of the Christian Conference of Asia in 2010 and Archbishop Sebouh Sarkissian was elected to the Executive Committee. The committee held its recent meeting 9-27 August in Taiwan. At the end of the meeting, CCA celebrated the 55th Anniversary of the Shincho Church. In his speech Archbishop Sebouh referred to the Armenian genocide and how the ancient Armenian Church translated the hope of the resurrection into the lives of its faithful.
17-21 July 2012, the Commission met in Talka Bangladesh. Ms. Araz Khodapakshian from the Diocese of Iran represented the Catholicosate of Cilicia.
Tuesday night, 21 August 2012, His Holiness Aram I, one of the Presidents of the MECC, moderated an emergency meeting of the Council. The other Presidents attending the meeting were: Syriac Catholic Patriarch His Beatitude Youssef III Lahham, representing the Catholic family of churches, His Grace Mounib Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran in Jordan and the Holy Land, on behalf of the Protestant churches, the General Secretary, His Grace Bishop Paul Rohanna and Associate General Secretary, Dr. Elias Halabi. Rev. Dr. Habib Badr, the Moderator of the MECC Task Force, also attended the meeting.
The agenda included two issues: Humanitarian assistance to refugees and displaced people in Syria. Until recently, the MECC's programme operated out of Damascus. Given the deteriorating situation in the country, the presidents decided to decentralize the operation and create new centres for humanitarian aid in Aleppo, Homs, Latakia and Kamishli. They also decided that they would ask other ecumenical organizations in the country to continue their activities, but in coordination with the local churches.
The second item was the nomination of a new general secretary. The current General Secretary Bishop Paul Rohanna, is resigning because of his new calling by his Church as a Diocesan Bishop. According to MECC by-Laws the new general secretary must be nominated during the next six month. They decided to set the procedures.
The 51st meeting of the World Council of Churches’ Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) convened from June 9 through 16, 2012 in Shanghai and Nanjing, China. The CCIA is a specialized advisory board which deals primarily with advising the WCC on public policy and advocacy. Vanna Kitsinian Der Ohanessian, Esq., a Commissioner from Los Angeles, participated in this meeting on behalf of the Holy See of Cilicia.
The CCIA meeting was hosted by the China Christian Council. The church in China is unique considering it has emerged in a Communist/Socialist ruled regime following decades-long prohibition on religions activities. It is in this context that one can appreciate the relevance of the CCIA’s meeting in China, which was historic because it was the very first official ecumenical meeting taking place in the country. The meeting was also symbolic because it was the last meeting of this particular Commission, whose commissioners serve for a period of seven years. In recent years, the CCIA has made a deliberate effort to meet in countries that have experienced a re-growth in Christian identity following either years of suppression under communist rule or in a post-communist era.
The main theme of the meeting was “Understanding China.” Commissioners participated in Sunday services at local Chinese congregations as an act of solidarity with their fellow Christians. They also participated in panel presentations on China’s development gains, including market oriented reforms, as well as poverty eradication and environmental sustainability. Significantly, Commissioners were educated on religious policies in China, specifically the role of religion in building a harmonious society. Lastly, there was a panel presentation on understanding the Church in China today, which is a non-denominational institution.
The Commissioners, who represent more than 30 countries, visited the Amity Foundation headquarters in Nanjing, which introduced them to the role of NGO’s in development initiatives in Socialist China, as well as China Christian Foundation’s Bible Production Center, which produces and distributes more than 16 million bibles per year. Lastly, the group visited the Nanjing Theological Seminary and was acquainted with the school’s theological program and initiatives.
Bringing her active participation to this meeting, Mrs. Der Ohanessian presented her working group’s position on issues related to freedom of religion and inter-religious dialogue. Mrs. Der Ohanessian recommended that the WCC formulate a Public Issues Statement on Freedom of Religion, particularly in light of the fact that the last official WCC statement on this matter was issued in 1981. The contents of that statement, it was said, should be rooted in Christian theology, but must be an inclusive document that is applicable to protect the rights of all religions. Furthermore, Mrs. Der Ohanessian presented what the priorities of the CCIA should be (as formulated by the CCIA) in the next seven years, calling for a special emphasis on religious freedom in the Middle East, and a focus on the rise of religious fundamentalism, whether it be Islamic, Christian, or any other religion. Lastly, Mrs. Der Ohanessian recommended that the succeeding CCIA initiate a program which focuses on the politicization of religion, a growing reality in various parts of the world, including the Middle East, Latin America, and South Asia, to name a few.
This Commission took a keen interest in the subject of freedom of religion and recently conducted a study aimed at identifying issues of freedom of religion faced by people in Turkey. While acknowledging Turkey’s longstanding track record of religious intolerance and in spite of these realities, some Commissioners raised the point that Turkey can at the same time be viewed as a model state, among others in the region, which has been able to combine the pillars of democracy with Islam. Objecting to this characterization and advocating on behalf of the Armenian Church, Mrs. Der Ohanessian cautioned her fellow Commissioners not to accept at face value Turkey’s propaganda to appear as a country that promotes religious freedom and one that respects the rights of its religious minorities. Mrs. Der Ohanessian referenced a 2011 Report on Religious Freedom and the Rights of Religious Minorities generated by the Commission, which is filled with numerous examples of Turkey’s intolerance for religious freedom against several religious minority groups, including Armenians. The report describes how Christians in Turkey, as well as other places throughout the Middle East, testify to years of tragic abuse and violation of rights, which often goes neglected by the international community. Mrs. Der Ohanessian reminded Commissioners that violent attacks, including the murder of Christians, have been witnessed in Turkey in recent years.
Furthermore, as part of the CCIA’s ongoing work regarding global advocacy, Commissioners were presented with a report regarding an exploratory visit by a select few Commissioners to Dubai and Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates on the Rights of Migrant Workers in the Arabian Gulf region and Stateless People around the world. With the wider participation of the WCC member constituencies, the CCIA expects to engage in advocacy on ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their families. With regard to statelessness, the CCIA agreed to advocate for the rights of stateless people, as nationality and citizenship are fundamental elements of human security because they provide people with a sense of belongingness and identity. Nationality also gives people a legal basis for the exercise of a wide range of human rights.
Lastly, following group deliberations, Mrs. Der Ohanessian presented to the Commission the summary of priorities for the CCIA following the General Assembly expected to take place in 2013. Among various foci, Armenian commissioners, including Mrs. Der Ohanessian, suggested that as a matter of resolving conflicts and reconciliation, the WCC and CCIA should commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, which will take place under the term of the next CCIA Commission. Additionally, closer attention should be given to conflict areas that are less publicized in the international headlines, such as the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over the disputed territory of Karabakh. These proposals, among others, are expected to go to the Central and Executive Committee members of the WCC, who will then decide whether to ratify the proposals as they move forward with the agenda of the CCIA in the next seven years. Advocacy on these issues, among others, will be implemented via the United Nations liaison within the general structure of the WCC, and the CCIA specifically.
“IN A GLOBALIZED WORLD, COEXISTENCE BETWEEN RELIGIONS, CULTURES AND PEOPLE IS AN IMPERATIVE”
STATED HIS HOLINESS ARAM I
Yesterday, an international conference began in Beirut. It was organized jointly by the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue (Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President), Head of the World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools (Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Taskhiri) and the Inter-Faith Foundation in North Lebanon (Cheikh Malek Al Chaar, Mufti, Tripoli and North Region Lebanon). Bishop John Shean, from the Episcopal Church represented the churches in United States of America.
The message of His Holiness Aram I was read by Archbishop Komidas Ohanian. After congratulating the organizers for their effort, Catholicos Aram I stated that because Christians and Muslims share common values from their monotheistic religions, it is natural, and indeed imperative, that they cooperate. What is common, stated His Holiness, needs to be strengthened and what is different must be respected. Referring to the topic of the conference, “How could Christians and Muslims work towards Justice and Peace together?” the Catholicos reminded the audience that both justice and peace are gifts of God and a vocation delegated to humanity. His Holiness Aram I assured the participants that he supports the outcome of the conference because “Christian-Muslim dialogue has been my primary concern both in my service through my Church as its Head and in my different leadership roles in the Ecumenical Movement. As we observe religious values regressing and violence and abuse of human rights substituting for justice and peace, we should remember that as recipients of His gift of justice and peace, we are obliged to promote and work for cooperation among religions.”
INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING
During last weekend, the Unit on Diakonia and Social Justice of the Middle East Council of Churches organized an international conference in Beirut on Human Trafficking.
A large number of politicians, Human Rights lawyers, NGO representatives studied the legal aspects of the issue and made recommendations to the MECC and concerned bodies.
Mrs. Mania Missirian, priests wife, represented the Catholicosate of Cilicia at the meeting.
The annual meeting of the Board of Trustees of “Hayastan” All Armenian Fund was recently held in Yeravan. Serge Sarkissian the President of the Republic of Armenia chaired the meeting, and His Eminence Archbishop Sebouh Sarkissian, Prelate of Tehran represented the Catholicosate of Cilicia.
In response to the letter of invitation of His Holiness Karekin II, His Holiness Aram I appointed Rev. Magar Ashekian to represent the Holy See of Cilicia at the Assembly of the Priests of the Holy See of Etchmiadzin to be held 3-6 June 2012, in Etchmiadzin.
PRE-ASSEMBLY EVENT IN MANILA (PHILIPPINES)
22-27 March 2012, the pre-assembly meeting of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME), was held in Manila. The event was organized in cooperation with the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.
More than 200 clergy and laity were invited to discuss the draft of a statement on mission and evangelism, which is to be presented to the Assembly of the WCC in 2013. Rev. Masis Chobouyan, Assistant Director of the Office of Ecumenical Relations, represented the Catholicosate of Cilicia.
The theme of the statement “Together toward life: mission and evangelism in changing landscapes” invited the WCC and mission organizations to recommit themselves to social justice, peace and interreligious dialogue as renewed aspects of mission and evangelism.
H.E. Archbishop Sebouh Sarkissian, Primate of Tehran, represented the Catholicosate of Cilicia at the Conference organized by HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal, Founder and Director of the Interreligious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue Foundation.
More than 75 Christian and Muslim experts from the Arab countries in the region were invited to discuss the future of Christianity in the Middle East.
In his opening speech, Prince Hassan stated that the exodus of Christians from the region is detrimental both for Christians and Muslims, and urged Muslim leaders to reconsider their policies regarding local Christians. Archbishop Sarkissian spoke of the Armenians in Iran, past and present.
The Archbishop met with Prince Hassan and conveyed the greetings of His Holiness Aram I. Prince Hassan returned the greetings and expressed his admiration for Catholicos Aram’s efforts to promote interreligious harmony.
March 1-8 2012, the Global Peace Initiative of Women (GPIW) celebrated its 10th Anniversary in cooperation with the UN Environment Programme in Nairobi .
GPIW was initiated by former UN General Secretary Kofi Anan, following the Spiritual Leaders’ meeting of the UN in New York in 2000. Following a request from the planning group, His Holiness Aram I appointed Ms Teny Pirri-Simonian as a member; Ms. Pirri-Simonian later was elected as one of the Co-Chairs. At the opening ceremony, in the presence of UN officials, religious leaders and political authorities, Ms. Pirri-Simonian read the message of His Holiness Aram I.
At the behest of HH Aram I, Ms. Pirri-Simonian also met with the leadership of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) to discuss cooperation between the Catholicosate of Cilicia and AACC Peace and Security Commission to Prevent Genocide.
From 26-27 February an international conference was held in Doha, Qatar, organized by the League of Arab States and sponsored by the State of Qatar.
His Grace Bishop Shahe Panossian, the Primate of the Armenian Diocese of Kuwait and the Emirates, attended this conference representing His Holiness Catholicos Aram I and the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC).
His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, Emir of Qatar, HE Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, Head of State of Palestine, HE Dr. Nabil El Arabi, Secretary General of the League of Arab States addressed the conference.
At the end of the conference a declaration was issued outlining the position of the Arab world on Jerusalem. Hereunder the text of the Qatar declaration:
We, the participants at the International Conference on Jerusalem held at Doha, Capital of the State of Qatar 26-27/2/2012 in implementation of Resolution 503 dated 28/3/2010, of the 22nd Arab Summit "Sirt Summit" billed as "Jerusalem Summit". The International Conference on Jerusalem convened under the auspices of His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, Emir of Qatar. The Conference was also attended by HE Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, Head of State of Palestine, HE Dr. Nabil El Arabi, Secretary General of the League of Arab States, and Excellencies the Arab ministers of foreign affairs. Additionally, a number of prominent figures also took part in the Conference featuring heads of international and regional organizations and agencies, human rights organizations and unions, religious figures, thinkers, legal, political and history professionals demonstrating a large historical gathering worldwide in solidarity with the Palestinian people in Al Quds, regarding their legitimate rights and fundamental principles well established thereto,
- We, hereby, welcome the call of His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Emir of the State of Qatar, for making Al Quds and its freedom a focal point for all Palestinians as well as a stimulus for completing conciliation and bringing division to an end,
- We, happily receive, His Highness call for developing a comprehensive and extended strategy on the different sectors and projects needed for Al Quds, Qatar is ready to contribute all its potentials to achieving the said strategy as well as putting it into force,
The last session of the ongoing Oriental Orthodox and Roman Catholic dialogue was held 17-21 January 2012 in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). The Armenian Church was represented by Bishop Armash of the Holy See of Etchmiadzin, and Archbishops Oshagan Choloyan and Nareg Alemezian Holy See of Cilicia.
On the first day, His Holiness, Patriarch Abune Paulos of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, presided over a meeting of the representatives of the Oriental Orthodox Churches. They discussed issues arising from the ecumenical movement. In the same evening, the Patriarch hosted a dinner to welcome the members of the Dialogue Committee.
During the meeting, several papers were read on the topic “Eucharistic Communion”. Discussion followed the presentations. On Friday 20 January, members of the Dialogue Committee took part in the celebration of Timkat, the Ethiopian Epiphany.
On Sunday 21 January, Bishop Armash celebrated the Liturgy at the Armenian Church in Addis Ababa and Archbishop Nareg preached the sermon and transmitted the blessings of His Holinesses Catholicos Karekin II and Catholicos Aram I.
The next meeting of the Dialogue Committee will be held 22-27 January 2013 in Rome.
TO SPEAK WITH ONE VOICE’
Stated His Holiness Aram I to the Press
At the end of the planning meeting of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), the Leadership met the press at the Cilicia Museum Hall of the Catholicosate.
His Holiness Aram I opened the conference with a brief introduction. He said that unity among the Churches in the Middle East is the priority at this moment of the history of the region. All churches belong to the Mystical Body of Christ irrespective of doctrinal differences. They form different parts of the same Body. The current events in the region urge us to pray together, reflect together, plan and act together in the service of our societies. He also said. “The Middle East Council of Churches is neither an organization, nor an institution apart from the life and witness of the Churches. It belongs to the Churches and the Churches own the Council.” He then presented and elaborated on the four programmatic priorities as adopted by the last General Assembly: Education and Formation, Diakonia, Christian-Muslim Dialogue and Ecumenical Relations.
1. Education and Formation understood not only as giving information, but as spiritual growth. It should begin at home; continue in schools and the Church. The MECC programme should prepare the future leadership of Christian communities of the Middle East.
2. Diakonia is an important vocation taught by the Gospels, hence an inseparable aspect of Christian life. Churches have historically expressed their diakonia through hospitals, old peoples’ homes, social centres and other projects. They should be enabled to continue their humanitarian work to serve the needy in their countries.
3. Christian Muslim Dialogue in the Middle East is part of the daily experience of the people, unlike other places where it is limited to theological dialogues. The MECC will reinvigorate its work to promote wider cooperation among all partners at all levels.
4. Ecumenical Relations to be strengthened among the four families of churches of the MECC, with Middle East Churches and their Diasporas, as well as with global and regional ecumenical structures. These relations should be based on new principles to respond to the challenges of globalization.
Catholicos Aram I then concluded. “The Church can neither be an observer, nor a follower. The Church is called to participate in all aspects of life that aim to build justice, promote the inherent dignity of the human being and human rights. These are not political goals but the core of the Church’s vocation.
After the introduction of His Holiness Aram I, The Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignace Youssif III Younan, Archbishop Paul Matta (Maronite), Bishop Costa Kayal (The Representative of Patriarch Hazim), Rev. Dr. Habib Badr (Evangelical Churches) and Rev. Dr. Paul Rohanna, General Secretary, Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) took the microphone and emphasized the importance of churches working together in the Middle East.
On Thursday 12 January 2012, His Holiness Aram I chaired several ecumenical meetings held in Antelias. The day began with a meeting with Archbishop George Saliba of the Sytrian Orthodox Church. His Holiness and the Archbishop discussed issues concerning the Oriental Orthdox Churches in the region and more specifically in Syria. They also discussed the forthcoming Roman Catholic Orthodox Dialogue to be held in Ethiopia in the coming weeks.
The Catholicos then received representatives of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), including, The Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignace Youssif III Younan, Archbishop Paul Matta (Maronite), Bishop Costa Kayal (Antiochian Orthodox Church), Rev. Dr. Habib Badr (Evangelical) and the General Secretary of the MECC, Rev. Dr. Paul Rohanna. The meeting focused on the reorganization of the Council and priorities in view of the new challenges in the region.
As announced earlier, His Holiness Aram I left for Cairo on 13 November 2011, accompanied by Archbishops Sebouh Sarkissian and Nareg Alemezian.
Consultations began Monday morning when His Holiness Aram I met with Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church and Patriarch Zakka I Iwas of the Syrian Orthodox Church. The three Spiritual Heads discussed challenges to Christian presence in the Middle East, and the forthcoming General Assembly of the Middle East Council of Churches. At the end, Abuna Paulos, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church joined the meeting.
The meeting of the four Heads of Oriental Orthodox Churches continued with an enlarged meeting including the accompanying delegations. On the same evening, the Spiritual Heads attended a thanksgiving celebration marking the 40th anniversary of the enthronement of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III as the Head of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, at the Cathedral in Cairo The former Prime Minister of Egypt, Muslim Religious Leaders and a large number of Copts were also present.
On Tuesday members of the Standing Committee of the Heads of Oriental Orthodox Churches met to discuss the forthcoming Assembly of the Middle East Council of Churches and the current situation in the Middle East and the challenges it presents to Christians in the region.
The visit of His Holiness Aram I ended with an extensive television interview where the Catholicos spoke of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Armenian Orthodox Church, Christian presence in the Middle East and the human rights of survivors of the Armenian Genocide.
At the end of their meeting, the four heads of the churches, issued a common Declaration emphasizing the importance of giving a concrete manifestation to the unity of the Oriental Orthodox churches. Hereunder the text of the common Declaration.
THE MEETING OF THE HEADS
OF THE ORIENTAL ORTHODOX CHURCHES
Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate
14 November 2011
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
H.H. Pope Shenouda III, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, H.H. Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, H.H. Catholicos Aram I, Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia of the Armenian Orthodox Church and H.H. Abuna Paulos, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, give thanks to God for bringing us together here in Cairo, Egypt, on Monday, 14 November 2011, to pray together and to reflect together on matters and concerns pertaining to our Churches and the Oriental Orthodox Family in general. We were accompanied by metropolitans, archbishops and bishops of our Churches.
In fact, the Churches of the Oriental Orthodox Family are united in faith, theology, doctrine, tradition and spirituality. This strong bond of unity has sustained this Family and became a source of spiritual strength, missionary outreach and social action in spite of tremendous challenges and crisis which surrounded these Churches in the course of their long history. The unity of faith of our Family is grounded on Apostolic Tradition and the teachings of the first three Ecumenical Councils of Nicea (325), Constantinople (381) and Ephesus (431). We developed our theological teachings and shaped our doctrinal positions on the basis of the teachings of these Ecumenical Councils, and adopted a common position in respect to heresies and heretics.
It is vitally important that we re-affirm and re-strengthen our unity, and re-invigorate our Christian witness. In a world which is constantly threatened by secularistic and materialistic ideologies and different sort of heresies which may jeopardize the integrity, identity and unity of our faith, therefore, re-organizing and re-revitalizing our intra-family collaboration is of decisive importance. The Oriental Orthodox Family has a long and rich history. Its relevance needs to be re-affirmed and its common witness to be re-activated in those regions and countries where the faithful of our Churches have organized their church and community life.
For H.H. Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I, H.H. Catholicos Aram I and H.H. Abuna Paulos, participating in the 40th anniversary celebration of the enthronement of H.H. Pope Shenouda III was indeed a source of spiritual joy and a unique opportunity to express our brotherly love and unity. The pontificate of His Holiness has been one of dedicated service to the sister Coptic Orthodox Church; a committed service marked by so many achievements in different spheres of the life and mission of the Church. We pray the Almighty God to strengthen H.H. Pope Shenouda III to carry on his pontifical ministry with renewed commitment and vision.
We appeal to our faithful to remain firm in their Christian faith and participate fully in the witness of our Churches. May God lead our Churches in faithfulness to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Glory be to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
14 November 2011
Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate
Pope Shenouda III Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I
Catholicos Aram I Patriarch Paulos
Archbishop Sebouh Sarkissian, the Prelate of Tehran represented the Catholicosate of Cilicia at the Ninth Interfaith Dialogue Meeting organized by the Centre of Interfaith Dialogue of Doha from 23 to 27 October 2011. The purpose of the meeting was to identify effective methods of communication.
His Excellency Hasan Bin Abdullah Al-Ghanem. Minister of Justice welcomed the 242 participants representing 60 countries. Archbishop Sebouh, one of the main speakers at the conference presented a paper on “Mass Media and a new language of Communication among Religions.”
Vienna – 25-26 September 2011, at the end of Module II in Vienna, the members of EPIL Association and the Board met according to the constitutional requirements of the Swiss Registered Association.
On Sunday afternoon, Co-directors Reinhild Traitler Espiritu and Teny Pirri-Simonian presented the 2010 annual report and the Treasurer, Catherine Giarmathy, presented the audited financial report. The members of the Association received and adopted the two reports with appreciation.
On Monday morning the Board received reports on the current course and fund-raising initiatives. They heard concerns raised by the co-directors and treasurer regarding the financial situation of EPIL in view of the current global crisis; they discussed the programmes and budgets of the two modules to be held in 2012.
At the end of the Board meeting, the president, Prof. Dr. Ulrich Becker, announced his resignation as President of the Board. In his speech, he encouraged the Board and staff to keep EPIL alive because of its unique pedagogy. He then added, “It is time for EPIL to have a woman president, and he congratulated Rev. Mag. Barbara Heyse Schaeffer, Head of the Protestant Women’s Work in Austria, for accepting to lead EPIL as the new president until the end of Course III.” The Board members thanked Ulrich Becker for his support and commitment to EPIL since its beginning. Under his leadership, the EPIL constituency has benefited from his vision as an adult educator and pedagogue of theology of religions. Ulrich Becker’s legacy, through his work in the World Council of Churches as Director of the Education Department and as Emeritus Professor at Hannover University, will remain firm in future EPIL work.
REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ARMENIAN CATHOLICOSATE OF CILICIA JOIN IN THE DAY OF PRAYER FOR PEACE IN ASSISI
In response to the invitation to His Holiness Aram I by H.H. Pope Benedict XVIth, Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan of the Eastern Prelacy (USA) and Bishop Khoren Doghramadjian,Prelacy of Greece, joined the 25th Anniversary of the Day of Prayer in Assisi (Italy) on Thursday 27 October.
At the end of the gathering, the two representatives of the Armenian Orthodox Church Holy See of Cilicia were pleased that a significant number of Muslims were part of the gathering. They made the following statement: “Christians and Muslims living together is part of the history of the Middle East Region and an existential reality today.”
PILGRIMS FROM THE COMMUNITY OF CHURCHES IN THE CANTON OF VAUD (CECCV) SWITZERLAND, VISIT THE ARMENIAN CATHOLICOSATE OF CILICIA IN ANTELIAS
On Sunday 23 October 2011 in the afternoon a group of pastors, priests, theologians, university professors representing the French speaking churches in Switzerland visited the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia accompanied by Ms. Teny Pirri-Simonian, a member of the CECCV Committee in Switzerland.
In the absence of His Holiness Aram I, who is currently on a pontifical visit to the USA, Fr. Masis Zobouyan greeted the group in French and invited them to the St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral to the evening service where the Gospel and prayers were read in French.
The group then met at the Cilicia Hall for an introduction on “The Armenian Orthodox Church, its ecumenism within the nation, in the region and the wider ecumenical movement.” Father Masis spoke of the history of the Armenian Church and its people, its vision and mission from its beginnings until the Genocide, and after its establishment in 1930 as a result of the Turkish policy to uproot them from Cilicia during the Genocide. Father Antranik Granian of the Armenian Catholic Church described the beginnings of the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate and its service to the Armenian people. Finally Rev. Robert Sarkissian, the Pastor of the French Reformed Church of France spoke of the Armenian Evangelical community and the Haigazian University, which is the only Armenian university in the diaspora. He then spoke of the cooperation between the Catholicosate of Cilicia and the Armenian Evangelical Church that is based on mutual respect. In his conclusion he said, “When we speak of ecumenism, we turn to the leadership of His Holiness Aram I.”
After the presentations, the evening ended with a spiritual concert by the Seminary choir conducted by Fr. Torkom Donoyan, and a visit to the Cilicia Museum guided by Fr. Hrant Tahanian. The guests were then invited to dinner to enjoy the hospitality of the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia.
During the visits, the members of CECCV were also introduced to other important places related to the history of the Genocide of 1914. In the north, they visited The Birds Nest orphanage begun by Danish Missionaries where they were met by V. Rev. Krikor Chiftjian the spiritual counselor of the institution. In the Beka’a valley they visited the Armenian Town of Anjar, whose history of resistance to the Turks is described by the Czech born novelist Fraz Werfel in his book “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh” (1933).
THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ARMENIAN CATHOLICOSATE OF CILICIA ATTENDS THE ANNUAL MEETING OF THE SECRETARIES OF CHRISTIAN WORLD COMMUNIONS (CWCs)
The annual meeting of the Secretaries of Christian World Communions was held 17-20 October 2012 at Silver Spring (Maryland USA). Archbishop Nareg Alemezian, the Ecumenical Officer and Current Dean of the Seminary attended the meeting.
On 18 October the group visited Washington and met with representatives from the White House and other State Departments, where Archbishop Nareg had the opportunity to refer to the Middle East and speak of the Armenian Genocide. The rest of the agenda covered ecumenical concerns particularly related to the growing number of free churches and their impact on local churches in different regions; religious freedom, and other global concerns and challenges to ecumenical relations.
During discussions on bilateral dialogues, Archbishop Nareg spoke of the Oriental Orthodox Dialogues with other churches, and gave a progress report on the activities of the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia.
At the end of the meeting, on behalf of His Holiness Aram I Archbishop Nareg invited the Secretaries to meet in Antelias in October 2012.
Archbishop Nareg Alemezian, Ecumenical Officer and Dean of the Seminary represented the Catholicosate at the “International Meeting of Prayer for Peace” organized by St Egidio Community 11-13 September 2011.
The Archbishop took part in the service commemorating the tenth anniversary of 11th of September, and later in a panel where he spoke of Armenian presence in the Diaspora.
His Eminence Archbishop Sebouh Sarkissian of the Diocese of Tehran (Iran) participated in a joint meeting of the World Council of Churches and the Christian Conference of Asia, held 1-5 August 2011, in Bangkok. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the possibility of joint ecumenical actions to ensure Asia’s peace and security. The participants reported on the life and witness of their churches and the issues that the poor people and minorities are facing.
In his presentation, Archbishop Sarkissian said that Christianity in Iran dated back many centuries and the Armenian Church has always played an active role. During discussions, the Archbishop spoke of the Armenian Genocide, Nagorno Karabagh and the situation of the Palestinian people.
At the end of the meeting, on behalf of His Holiness Aram I, His Eminence invited the General Secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia to Antelias, Lebanon.
His Holiness welcomed the growing impact of ecumenism on the life of the churches in Asia, and the active participation of the Armenian Church in Iran in ecumenical witness in the region.
ORIENTAL ORTHODOX CHURCHES MEETS IN CAIRO
On Monday 4 July 2011, the Members of the Standing Committee met in Cairo. The Committee was established in 1998, upon the decision of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III Coptic Orthodox Church, His Holiness Ignatus Zakka I Iwas Syrian Orthodox Church, and His Holiness Aram I Armenian Orthodox Church, Catholicosate of Cilicia.
The members of the Committee, Anba Bishoy, Coptic Orthodox Church, Metropolitan George Saliba and Archbishop Nais, Syrian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Sebouh Sarkissian and Archbishop Nareg Alemezian, met with His Holiness Pople Shenouda III, before beginning their meetings. The agenda of the Standing Committee included: assessment of the Bilateral Theological Dialogues; relations with the World Council of Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches and participation in these bodies; strengthening cooperation and coordination of activities between the three sister churches.
In its final statement the Standing Committee reaffirmed the unity of the faith that exists between them; recommitted them to face together challenges and developments in the Middle East; and reconfirmed their attachment to their ancient orthodox roots in the Region.
AT THE CONFERENCE ON “CHRISTIANITY IN THE MIDDLE EAST”
HELD IN GREECE
June 23-26 the consultation organized jointly by the World Council of Churches and the Academy of the Greek Orthodox Church brought together theologians, politicians and civil society members to discuss the situation of Christians in Palestine and the Middle East, and possible ways of building bridges between the East and West, the old and the new.
Mr. Nazareth Berberian, representing the Catholicosate of Cilicia, spoke on the topic of “Christians in Lebanon”, and Sevan Nazareth Samprim spoke of “Christians in Iraq”. After listening to all presentations,
the participants identified the following areas of concern: Rising fundamentalism in the region and its challenge to pluralism; growing fear among Christians and their emigration from the region. In relation to the recent events in the region, they hoped that the people will recover their just rights.
The conference also expressed its concern over the ‘ethnic cleansing’ policy of the Turkish occupation army in Northern Cyprus, and its interference with Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Maronite Church properties.
At the end, the participants emphasized the importance of strengthening ecumenical relations between churches in the West and the East and enabling local churches to become bridges builders through interfaith dialogue.
The conclusions of the Volos meeting will be discussed by the representatives of Churches in the Middle East during a consultation organized by the World Council of Churches and hosted by the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia in Antelias (Lebanon) in November 2011.
THE CATHOLICOSATE OF CILICIA WAS PRESENT AT THE 100th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS OF THE NOTRE-DAME IMMACULÉE CATHEDRAL OF MONACO
H. E. Archbishop Nareg Alemezian was invited by Archbishop Bernard Barsi of Monaco to attend a Thanksgiving Mass celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Notre Dame Immaculee Cathedral of Monaco.
Before the mass, Archbishop Nareg met with the Archbishop and transmitted the greetings of His Holiness Aram I. The two clergymen then discussed the Holy See of Cilicia, its contribution to the ecumenical movement and its long relations with the Roman Catholic Church. They also spoke of the recent social revolutions in the Middle East and the situation of Christians in the region.
During his stay in Monaco, Archbishop Nareg was the guest of the Anglican Priest Rev. Walter Raymond. On Sunday June 12 he attended the Anglican Church and at the end of the Service he was asked to deliver a message to the congregation.
6-9 June 2011, Archbishop Nareg Alemezian participated in three important meetings at the World Council of Churches. He first met with the staff preparing the “Regional Consultation on Christian Presence in the Middle East: Challenges and Hopes,” which will be held in November 2011 in Antelias and will be hosted by the Catholicosate of Cilicia.
Archbishop Nareg then attended a meeting of the Steering Group of the Secretaries of Christian Communions (SCWCs), and invited them to hold their annual meeting in 2012 in Antelias.
On June 8-9, the Archbishop chaired the meeting of the Joint Commission between the World Council of Churches and the Secretaries of Christian Communions, during which they discussed the next Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 2013 and the forthcoming meeting of the Global Ecumenical Christian Forum.
THE CATHOLICOSATE OF CILICIA PARTICIPATES IN THE INTERNATIONAL ECUMENICAL PEACE CONVOCATION WITH FIVE DELEGATES
The International Peace Convocation was held in Kingston Jamaica 17-24 May 2011. His Holiness Aram I had nominated Archbishop Nareg Alemezian, Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Archdeacon Marc Shirin, Miss Jeanette Nararian and Mrs Asdghik Kandaharian, representing Dioceses in the United States of America and Lebanon.
The International Ecumenical Peace Convocation was organized to celebrate the end of the Ecumenical Decade to Overcome Violence (2001-2011), and its achievements. The representatives of the Catholicosate were assigned different tasks within the programme. Archbishop Alemezian was member of the message committee and Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian lead a Bible Study Group.
On this occasion, the press and TV reporters interviewed Archbishop Nareg Alemezian, who spoke about the Catholicosate of Cilicia and the importance of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 by the International Community..
Archbishop Nareg, Bishop Anoushavan, Archdeacon Marc and Mrs Seta Khedeshian (representing the Middle East Council of churches) took part in the closing Ecumenical Worship Service.
DR. OF MINISTRY DEGREE
On Monday, 9 May 2011, at the convocation which took place in the Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver, Canada, His Eminence Archbishop Nareg Alemezian received his Dr. of Ministry degree from the University of British Columbia Vancouver School of Theology.
The subject of Archbishop Alemezian's thesis is "Priesthood in the 21st