Following is the text of the statement issued by the Executive Committee of the Catholic Churches of the East at the conclusion of the meeting held on November 28-29, 2022 at Notre-Dame du Puits Monastery in Lebanon:
The Executive Committee of the Middle East Council of Churches held a face-to-face meeting, for the first time after the end of the Corona pandemic, on Monday 28 and Tuesday 29 November 2022 at the Monastery of Notre-Dame du Puits Monastery in Bkennaya, Lebanon. The meeting was chaired by His Eminence Anba Anthonios, Metropolitan of Jerusalem and the Near East for the Coptic Orthodox and the President of the MECC for the Eastern Orthodox Family, His Beatitude Patriarch John X, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, and the President of the MECC for the Orthodox Family, represented by His Eminence Metropolitan Saba Esber, Metropolitan of Busra Houran and Jabal Al-Arab, His Eminence Rev. Dr. Paul Haidostian, President of the Federation of Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East and President of the MECC for the Evangelical Family, His Beatitude Patriarch Raphael Bedros XXI Minassian, Catholicos of the House of Cilicia for the Armenian Catholics and President of the MECC for the Catholic Family, with the participation of members of the Executive Committee from Lebanon Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Cyprus, representing 21 churches of the Middle East, the Secretary-General of the MECC Dr. Michel Abs, the two Associate General Secretaries Reverend Refaat Fikry and Father Nicolas Bustros, the Executive Secretary of the Association of Theology Institutes in the Middle East (ATIME), Reverend Michael Kanbar, in addition to the General Secretariat team of department directors and administrators.
The meeting also hosted a group of young people from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine and Syria, in addition to Lebanon. They participated in the meeting as representatives of various churches and youth movements in a consultative dialogue session, in which they expressed their worries, shared their challenges, concerns and aspirations, and presented proposals that they see as ensuring a better future for them and for the Christian role in the region.
On the first day, the conferees observed a minute of silence and prayer for the Late Chrysostomos II, Archbishop of Cyprus, blessed be His memory, and recalled His ecumenical spirit, his solidarity with the issues of the region, and his permanent support for the Middle East Council of Churches. After the opening prayer and verification of the legal quorum, the agenda of the meeting was approved, the minutes of the previous Executive Committee meeting held on June 27, 2022 were approved, and the final statement drafting committee was appointed.
Then, an evaluation was made of the activities of the MECC’s twelfth general assembly, which was held in Egypt last May, and the results of this ecumenical event, which is held every 4 years, and which slogan was “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid!” (Matthew 14:27)
There was also a follow-up on the recommendations of the Assembly Working Groups that were approved in the General Assembly, the election of Ms. Seta Hadeshian as Associate Secretary-General for the Eastern Orthodox Family and the re-election of the two former Associate Secretary-Generals, Rev. Refaat Fikri for the Evangelical Family and Father Nicolas Bustros for the Catholic Family.
Members of the Central Committee of the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees were also elected, and a committee was appointed to follow up the work of the MECC’s 50th jubilee, which falls on the year 2024.
The relations between the Middle East Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, the ACT Alliance and international partners were presented, with an examination of the future prospects for this cooperation.
On the second day, a session of the Youth’s Expectations was held, then there was a presentation and discussion of the financial situation and the sustainability of the MECC in the light of the difficult and oppressive economic conditions that the region and the world are going through, and the future of cooperation with the international partners. It was also agreed to activate the work of the committees in the council and to appoint new committees for the various departments and programs after consulting with the heads of the council.
The Executive Committee concluded its meetings with a series of decisions and recommendations, through which the conferees emphasized the following:
First: Lifting up prayers for the cessation of wars and conflicts that exhaust the world, disrupt its security and stability, and impoverish its people, and ask all conflicting parties to return to dialogue because the language of violence and fire leads to nowhere. The meeting also shared the suffering of the Lebanese people, which has been prolonged at all levels, and called on the Lebanese officials to take a stand of conscience and find solutions to end this suffering in all available ways. They called on the members of Parliament to expedite the election of a president for the republic who guarantees the sovereignty of Lebanon and the dignity of its people and restores this country’s pioneering role in the region and restores its cycle of democratic life to normal.
Second: Calling for an end to the suffering of the Syrian people, bringing peace to all the Syrian territory, as well as securing a dignified and safe return of the displaced to their homeland. Moreover, the meeting expressed its solidarity with Iraq, which is striving to restore its strength, supporting those who are steadfast in their land, and the return of those who were displaced to their homes and properties, while guaranteeing their civil and human rights on an equal basis and fair citizenship. On the International Day in Support of the Palestinian People, the conferees demand the implementation of international resolutions that achieve justice, guarantee the right of return for Palestinian refugees, guarantee their national identity, and protect the various societal and religious components in the Holy Land, especially the Christian ones.
Third: Calling Christians in the East, especially the youth, who are the light of the world and the salt of this land, to stick to their land and not fall into the trap of temptations to emigration, which makes them lose their identity and makes this East miss a major component of its components and social fabric.
Fourth: A special conference shall be held on the issue of the kidnapped and forcibly disappeared, an issue that still deepens pain and sadness in the hearts of many, coinciding with the ten years of the kidnapping of Bishops Boulos Al Yazigi and Youhanna Ibrahim.
Fifth: The committee listened with great interest to the concerns and aspirations of the youth and discussed them in depth, out of concern for their basic role in the present and future of the church and decided to raise these concerns and aspirations to the heads of churches and to activate the participation of youth in the work of the MECC in order to follow up on them.
Sixth: The conferees stressed the need to move forward in dialogue in order to seek to unify the date of Easter, which is a pressing demand from the various parishes of churches in the Middle East and which does not negate the spirit of richness in diversity.
Seventh: The Executive Committee Recommended the convening of an extraordinary general assembly of the Middle East Council of Churches on the 50th anniversary of its founding, paving the way for it with a series of activities that embody the values of the Council and its mission, which is based on building bridges and spreading the ecumenical spirit, love, peace, social justice and the language of dialogue.
In conclusion, the conferees praised the work of the MECC’s General Secretariat team and the tremendous service performed by the Service and Relief Department-Diakonia, especially in Syria and the restoration of churches and religious institutions in various governorates. They also thanked the department for the efforts made to provide relief to those affected by the Beirut port explosion, in addition to rehabilitation programs in Jordan.
Finally, everyone prayed so that the MECC remains a prophetic voice in this East, renewing their hope in the Lord that their joint testimony be for Jesus Christ alone, in solidarity with their churches and parishes that bear witness to the Lord Jesus despite all the challenges, in application of the Sermon on the Mount: 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”. (Matthew 5:14-16)