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Greeting from Patriarch Matthias I, at Ecumenical Centre, Geneva, 10 February 2017

Greeting from Patriarch Matthias I, at Ecumenical Centre, Geneva, 10 February 2017

10 February 2017

February 10, 2017
Geneva, Switzerland

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, One God Amen!

-      Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of WCC

-      Deputy General Secretaries

-      Prof Dr Fr Ioan Sauca

-      Prof Dr Isabel Phiri

-      Church leaders present

-      Representatives of different Ecumenical Institutions

-      Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!


I greet you all in the name of our common Lord Jesus Christ!

I feel honoured and privileged to be amongst you and bring you brotherly greetings of my people and in particular of the over 50 million members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. The Psalmist said, "Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity'' (Psalm 133:1).

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Ever since its foundation, the World Council of Churches, in whose house we are today, has dedicated itself to forging unity between and among the worldwide Christian community—so large in number, so diverse in culture, history and traditions and yet all joined in worshipping God Almighty - Father, Son and the Holy Spirit - the Creator of the Universe.

Today the WCC has 348 member churches. What a jubilation!!! This success, however, is not achieved without sacrifice. Our ecumenical predecessors, who carried the ecumenical torch, have paid a costly price for this success. I want all of us to stand prayerfully and thank them for the ecumenical work they have capably accomplished.

Indeed, there are many historical events we can recall. I want for this purpose to limit it to at least three major undeniable facts, which, by the way, have also heavily contributed to keeping the Orthodox Churches in the WCC.

  • The first is the "Toronto Statement," issued by the 1950 Central Committee. The statement has two parts: the first states with clarity 'what the WCC is not' and the second carefully underscored 'life in the Council'.
  • This carefully designed statement was followed by an equally historic document of Common Understanding and Vision (CUV). This is yet another ground-breaking document which helped us to stay together.
  • The other equally significant document is "The Special Commission on Orthodox Churches Participation in the WCC". This document helped us to face and accept the most sensitive issues faced by the Orthodox members of WCC.

These three ground-breaking documents have helped us to ensure that what our ecumenical predecessors have affirmed in 1948, that "we intend to stay together," has been achieved.

Compared to that historic time of the creation of the WCC, today Christianity is under assault, challenge and confrontation throughout the world. Let it be clear, therefore, that the principle and objectives articulated when WCC was established have relevance and meaning today more than ever.

If, we, its members, marshal our strength and our resources of whatever size and strive toward the fulfilment of our calling individually and collectively - we can, with help of the Almighty, answer our Lord's call for service and for sacrifice and contribute to a more just and peaceful God-fearing order.

Much has been achieved to date, yet much more remains to be done. And may I stress that in all the activities and successes of the past, you, the staff of the organization and your predecessors, have played key roles – and must in the future continue to do so—not only by carrying out the normal functions expected of you, but also by devising creative and innovative ways of meeting the intricate challenges of each member church worldwide.

You, much more than I, know so well that injustice, war, strife, poverty, narrow nationalism under various guises are tearing our world apart or tearing it down!

Hence the WCC has been calling not only member churches and ecumenical councils but also governments, world leaders, and social movements to stand together in the fight against devastation – responding to man-made and natural disasters, ensuring peace, justice and dignity of all, and making our earth a safer place to live.

It is an undeniable fact that WCC's major preoccupation is protecting and defending peace, justice and the dignity of people created in the image of God, in its fullness guided by the message of our Lord Jesus Christ told, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world gives you (John 14:27).

Jesus continued his teaching about peace: 'In me you may have peace; in the world you have tribulation' (John 16:33). Based on the word of God, the WCC gave priority to the question of peace and reconciliation. No human philosophy nor high technology or weapons could bring peace and reconciliations better than the Word of God, as we have observed in the history of this world.

The recent WCC message on the "pilgrimage for justice and peace" has guided and continues to guide us in our mission of teaching and mobilizing our churches and members to stand for peace and justice.

In our church, peace is the message of every day. Throughout our liturgical service, peace is highlighted in the daily throughout the country. Peace in its Amharic-Ge'ez version "Selam," in Hebrew “Shalom.”

We have faithfully followed the call of the WCC for inter-religious dialogue to be integrated as an important part of our ecumenical responsibility. Hence, together with other religious groups, we have formed a strong inter-religious council consisting of Catholics, Muslims and Protestants under the leadership of our church. The Council deals with, among other issues, with peace and reconciliation. It organizes consultations on different timely challenges facing the country.

It issues balanced and action-oriented statements directed to the political institutions and the people at large. Since last year, the Inter-faith Council has organized two major consultations on the current political and economic crises facing the country.

At the end of each consultation, important statements have been issued calling all concerned to set aside their political differences and work collectively for lasting peace.

Peace and reconciliation are a vital part of our church's ministry. The Holy Synod on several occasions has proposed both to the government and the opposition to come together and discuss the critical situation facing the country with the objective of finding lasting solutions.

It is also significant to point out here that the Ethiopian President and the Prime Minister in their speech at the Parliament have called for a joint meeting between the ruling party and the opposition with the definite objective of collectively addressing the critical political problem facing the country.

It is as a result of this call that the Ruling Party and the Opposition group have now begun in earnest to discuss the process in preparation for the substantive discussion.

In this connection I want to express our church’s appreciation to the WCC leadership for the timely ecumenical visit led by Dr. Agnes Aboum, the Moderator of the Central Committee.

During their visit they met with the President and the Minster of Foreign Affairs. Their visit, among other significant impacts, has given moral encouragement that the ecumenical movement is with us both during good and difficult times.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and its people cannot forget the moral encouragement and humanitarian support we received from the WCC during the strong famine (1983-1985) that affected millions of our people. Through your help, our church was able to save the lives of many Ethiopians. At this juncture I would like to thank you and your partner organizations for that.

I can say a lot about WCC, which is the vanguard and umbrella of Christian churches. Yet, I should not forget to say, as founding member church, that my church and I feel proud and honoured to belong to this universal council which has brought and is striving to bring close cooperation and mutual understanding between and among churches.

I also thank the WCC for honouring us by electing our delegates to be members of the Central Committee and Executive Committee. We became members of the Executive Committee after 65 years, although we are one of the founding members of WCC. May I also take this opportunity to express my church’s appreciation for your several visits to our church.

I feel that the WCC is right to do so, because the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, which was established in the first century, now, with its 50+ million members, more than 35,000 parish churches, more than 1,500 ancient monasteries (including those in Jerusalem), more than 50 archbishops and bishops, more than 400,000 ordained clergy, more than 20,000 classical and ecclesiastical schools, together with its wonderful heritage of international recognition, has great potential and is at the disposal of WCC.

May the grace and blessings of the Almighty be with each of you and your families, and with worldwide Christian community;

May the dedication and devotion of all those in the service of our God through this magnificent universe that He alone has executed, yield abundant, beautiful and plentiful "human harvest", that will result in honour and glory to His name and His kingdom.

God Bless,

In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen,

Abba Matthias I,
Patriarch of Ethiopia,
Archbishop of Axum,
Echegue of the See of St. Tekle Haimanot