CYPRUS-His Holiness Catholicos Aram I of Cilicia was elected President of the Oriental Orthodox Churches during closing session of the 9th General Assembly of the Middle East Council of Churches on Friday.
The Assembly convened in Cyprus on November 27 with morning prayers and concluded its sessions with the election of Presidents, the General Secretary and new members of the council’s Executive Committee.
During the past 15 years, the Catholicos has given up his turn to be elected as President of MECC in favor of the Spiritual Heads of the Coptic Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox Churches. The Council of Churches consists of Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and other Churches in the Middle East.
This year, the Catholicos headed a delegation of five representatives to participate in the assembly on behalf of the Catholicosate of Cilicia. Included in the delegation were Primate of the Diocese of Tehran Archbishop Sebouh Sarkisian, Primate of the Diocese of Lebanon Bishop Kegham Khatcherian, Ecumenical Officer Bishop Nareg Alemezian, Chairwoman of the Ecumenical Committee Dr. Nora Bayrakdarian-Kabakian and Ecumenical Committee member Dr. Jean Salmanian.
Carla Khijoyian from the World Council of Churches and Director of MECC’s Life and Service Unit Seta Khedeshian also participate in the Assembly.
The Assembly was inaugurated with welcoming remarks by religious and diplomatic representatives in attendance. The participants then ratified the agenda of the meeting, following which MECC General Secretary Dr. Gerges Saleh read a report on the organization’s activities for the last four years. After a detailed discussion of the report, the participants highly praised the work that had been done with utmost dedication.
The participants then elected the committees of the Assembly with Bishop Khatcherian being elected as a member of the Electoral Committee, Dr. Bayrakdarian-Kabakian as a member of the Administrative Committee and Dr. Salmanian as a member of the Reporting Committee.
During the Wednesday and Thursday sessions of the General Assembly, the participants listened to and discussed the reports of the MECC faith and unity, education, life and service units, as well as report by the communication, Christian-Muslim dialogue, justice, peace and human rights, ecumenical and international affairs, Palestinian refugees, social services and administrative-economic departmen’s.
The issue of infrastructure reform within the MECC received great attention during the Assembly and became the subject of a detailed discussion by the participants. In light of the several proposals made, the Assembly decided this issue would become one of the priorities of the new Executive Committee.
The Assembly participants also had the opportunity to listen to the welcoming remarks and concerns of ecumenical councils and organizations cooperating with the MECC.
On Thursday, the Ambassador of Lebanon to Cyprus, Michel Khoury, organized a dinner reception in the Lebanese Embassy in honor of the all the participants in the Assembly.
The Standing Committee of the Oriental Orthodox Churches in the Middle East convened Thursday and Friday to discuss issues pertaining to theological dialogues, ecumenical issues and the imperative of strengthening cooperation within the family of Oriental Orthodox Churches.
Bishop Alemezian held a series of meetings with ecumenical guests, including representatives from the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran Churches. During these meetings, the two sides exchanged view on important issues in the ecumenical field. Alemezian emphasized the commitment of His Holiness Aram I and the Catholicosate of Cilicia to this movement.
The other presidents elected during the closing session of the General Assembly were the Patriarch of Jerusalem His Holiness Teopilos III (Orthodox), Archbishop Boulos Matar (Roman Catholic) and Rev. Safouad Bayadi (Protestant).
While Bishop Khatcherian was elected as a member of the Executive Committee and Dr. Saleh (Coptic Orthodox Church) was reelected to his position as General Secretary.
The MECC was founded in 1974 and consists of the families of Eastern Orthodox, Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches. The Catholicosate of Cilicia is a founding member of the MECC. The organization’s assemblies are convened once every four years.