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It was a real pleasure for me to learn that the WCC 10th General Assembly in Busan, South Korea, elected HH Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians at Holy Etchmiadzin in Armenia, as one of its new co-presidents.
The Armenian Apostolic (Oriental Orthodox) Church has a rich tradition and long-standing association with the World Council of Churches in Geneva. Most prominently, HH Catholicos Aram I of the House of Cilicia in Antelias, Lebanon, was the Moderator of the Central Committee for two successive terms and is regarded as one of the leading figures in drawing the ecumenical and interreligious road-maps of this fellowship.
Moreover, I am hopeful that this appointment will enhance further the solid ecumenical credentials of the Armenian Orthodox Church, not least since the Church also plays a major role in the Middle East Council of Churches (with its headquarters in Lebanon) in view of the many issues besetting the MENA region during a time of uprisings, uncertainty and confessional tensions.
Also, it is my hope that this appointment will consolidate the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox Commission as it dialogues on those issues that divide those two traditions and that have in the past caused some ructions. It will also hopefully strengthen further the strong brotherly relations between the Armenian and Roman Catholic Churches and their leaders.
Furthermore, I am equally delighted that HB Patriarch Youhanna (John) X of Antioch and All the East (Eastern Orthodox) was also elected as one of the eight new presidents.
Patriarch John X represents a large community of indigenous Arab Christians in the MENA region and most notably in Syria and Lebanon. He succeeded quite recently to the late Ignatius IV (Hazim) and is a man whose pastoral and ecclesial roles will be instrumental as Christians across those countries and further in the MENA region seek their dignity and freedoms at a time when radicalism is also dangerously on the rise.
His Beatitude, the new co-president, is also the brother of HE Metropolitan Boulos (Paul) Yazigi who was abducted by foreign elements along with HE Metropolitan Youhanna Ibrahim of the Syrian Orthodox Church near Aleppo in northern Syria on 22nd April.
I pray for both co-presidents, as I do for all the other co-presidents, so that together they "seek to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph 4:3).
© Harry Hagopian is an international lawyer, ecumenist and EU political consultant. He also acts as a Middle East and inter-faith advisor to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales and as Middle East consultant to ACEP (Christians in Politics) in Paris. He is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/HarryHagopian). Formerly an Executive Secretary of the Jerusalem Inter-Church Committee and Executive Director of the Middle East Council of Churches, he is now an international fellow, Sorbonne III University, Paris, consultant to the Campaign for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide (UK), Ecumenical consultant to the Primate of Armenian Church in UK & Ireland, and author of The Armenian Church in the Holy Land. Dr Hagopian’s own website is www.epektasis.net Follow him on Twitter here: @harryhagopianTweet