A high distinction has been bestowed on the general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit. On Thursday 2 September, the Cross of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre was presented to Tveit by Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem.
Tveit was visiting Jerusalem as part of a WCC delegation meeting with members of the WCC member churches in the region as well as with Jewish and Muslim leaders.
The Cross of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre is an honour awarded by the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem and the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre. The name refers to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, built over the traditional site of Jesus’ tomb.
“Because of the Patriarchate’s role and witness, we fully endorse the work of the World Council of Churches and of your office, especially in the struggle for peace, justice and reconciliation,” Patriarch Theophilos said in a ceremony held at the offices of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.
“The Patriarchate of Jerusalem is especially keen to assist you in your concern for lasting peace in the Middle East, for the well-being of all the people of the region, and for the ongoing presence of Christians in the Holy Land,” he said.
Patriarch Theophilos assured Tveit of the ongoing support of the Orthodox Church toward the WCC, saying the ecumenical movement is called to promote “unity without confusion” among churches.
Shortly before placing the cross around Tveit’s neck, the patriarch uttered this blessing: “May this cross be a reminder to you of the daily death and resurrection that is the vocation of every Christian believer, and of the way of the cross that leads to the triumph of new life.”
“I receive this cross with humility and accept it as an honour intended for the World Council of Churches and our common efforts toward Christian unity,” Tveit said. “The ecumenical movement is a movement of the cross, and this reminds me in a very clear way how the cross unites us in our faith and ministry.”
“May we carry the cross together, and may there be hope for the peace of Jerusalem in these days,” Tveit concluded.