THE PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA AT THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE MIDDLE EAST COUNCIL OF CHURCHES
ARRIVAL OF THE PATRIARCH IN CYPRUS
On Monday 1st December His Beatitude left Alexandria for Cairo where he was met by His Grace Alexios, Bishop of Nitria, Patriarchal Vicar in Cairo, His Grace Theophylactos, Supervisor of the Patriarchal Monastery of St George in Old Cairo, the clergy of Cairo and dignitaries of the Cairo Hellenic Community.
His Beatitude left for Cyprus to preside over the 8th General Assembly of the Middle East Council of Churches. He met with Pope Shenouda of the Coptic Church who was also on his way to Cyprus.
In Larnaca, His Beatitude was met by His Grace Vasilios, Bishop of Trimythous, representing Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus, the Patriarchal representative in Cyprus His Eminence Chrysostomos of Kition, His Excellency the Ambassador of Egypt Mr Mohamed Abdel Hakam, other representatives of the Secretariat of the Council and other dignitaries.
The two Primates left immediately for Nicosia where they visited Archbishop Chrysostomos accompanied by the above-mentioned clergy and the Egyptian Ambassador. They were informed about the Archbishop’s health, assuring him of their love and prayers.
The dignitaries then all went to the Egyptian Ambassadorial residence for a reception in honour of the two Primates. Among the dignitaries present were many Egyptians. During the reception His Beatitude had the opportunity of talking with those present, especially with Mr D Christofias, the President of the House of Representatives.
His Beatitude and his entourage stayed at the St Raphael hotel in Limasol, where the General Assembly of the Middle East Council of Churches was held. That evening His Beatitude visited and blessed the home of Mr and Mrs A. Demetriades in Limasol and attended a private dinner given in his honour.
OPENING OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Under the Presidency of His Beatitude the Assembly began on 2nd December 2003. After the opening prayer His Beatitude made the official opening speech.
Greetings were then given by His Eminence Chrysostomos of Paphos, on behalf of the Church of Cyprus, the Undersecretary on behalf of the President of the Democratic Republic of Cyprus Mr Papadopoulos, Cardinal W. Kasper of the Roman Catholic Church, the representatives of the World Council of Churches and of the Islamic Institute of Lebanon and others.
The inaugural session was attended, among others, by the Ambassadors of Egypt, Greece, Libya, congressmen from the Cypriot Parliament and dignitaries of Cypriot society.
His Eminence Archbishop Athanasios of Limasol hosted a lunch in honour of the Primate of the Alexandrian Church, to which other dignitaries were also invited.
During the afternoon session the General Secretary of the Council, Dr R Jarjour, spoke at length and in detail about the work of the Council; this was followed by a presentation by the committees of Faith and Unity, Education and renewal, etc. Late that night His Beatitude presided over a meeting of the Orthodox representatives who participated in the General Assembly. Matters discussed were the positions and the road forward of this group in matters concerning the administrative committee and the election of a new General Secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches.
COMPLETION OF THE WORK OF THE MIDDLE EAST COUNCIL OF CHURCHES
The work of the Assembly of the Middle East Council of Churches was successfully completed on 5th December 2003. During the last two days the reports presented were approved and a decision was taken on calling an Extra-Ordinary General Assembly to study and approve the changes to the Constitution in order that the operation of the Council be made easier and more productive.
Prior to the end of the deliberations greetings were given by representatives of other Christian Councils, such as the World Council of Churches, the Pan-African Church Council, etc., declaring thereby the existing mutual support between the Churches, as well as the interest of other Christian communities for the Middle East region.
During the final day, the Presidents of the Families which make up the Council were elected, while the Primate of the Alexandrian Church was re-elected as President of the Family of the Orthodox (Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and the Church of Cyprus). Mr Girguis Ibrahim Saleh was elected as the new General Secretary of the Council. His Grace Bishop George of Niloupolis was re-elected as a member of the Administrative Committee.
During his stay in Cyprus His Beatitude met with friends and workers of the Patriarchate and also attended a dinner hosted in his honour by His Eminence Archbishop Chrysostomos of Kition, the Patriarchal representative in Cyprus. The dinner was attended by various dignitaries.
Prior to his departure from Cyprus His Beatitude concelebrated Great Vespers at the Holy Church of St Nicholas on the eve of the Feast of St Nicholas together with His Eminence Chrysostomos and His Eminence Dionysios of Leontopolis.
During his address the Archbishop of Kition expressed his joy and gratitude for His Beatitude’s presence, referring to the Mission effort of His Beatitude and the Patriarchate in Africa. He asked His Beatitude to “continue his prayers for the faithful and suffering people of Cyprus”.
In reply His Beatitude thanked His Eminence for his support and assistance, especially in his capacity as Chairman of the Institute “For the Fight Against the Scourge of Hunger”.
His Beatitude departed for Larnaca from where he flew to Cairo, arriving then in Alexandria by road in the early hours of the morning.
Ref. No. 672
BY THE GRACE OF GOD POPE AND PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA AND ALL AFRICA TO ALL THE FAITHFUL OF OUR CHURCH, GRACE, PEACE AND MERCY FROM OUR SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST WHO WAS BORN BY THE THEOTOKOS
My beloved children in Christ,
The birth of Jesus Christ is once again before us and is our reason for celebration, an occasion of glory and joy, and a day of exaltation and rejoicing that brings forth heavenly gifts and divine blessings. ‘He, who is uncontainable’ is born of the Virgin Lady and enters the history of the world. The Creator of the World takes on the form of creation: ‘But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.’ (Galatians 4:4-5).
The birth and incarnation of the Son of God occurred only once resulting in the union and communion of God with humanity and creation. The state and place of mankind was radically transformed when the Only Begotten Son of God, in the person of Jesus Christ incarnate became the Son of Man.
This is the mystery of the Divine dispensation. This is the magnitude of God’s condescension! This is the consequence of Divine Grace. What logic can comprehend the magnitude of this mystery? Who can understand and relate to this God/Man duality? How can we possibly comprehend the supreme mystery of He who is uncreated taking on the form of the created?
He who was expected by the Prophets puts on human nature and is witnessed by the Divine apostles. This unique instance of co-existence of the Divine and human nature in one hypostasis in the person of Jesus Christ motivates all the Martyrs, Apologists, Confessors, Fathers, Teachers of our Faith, the Ascetics and every spirit made perfect through faith towards holiness. As the Church grows the inheritance of the Incarnate Word becomes accessible. His presence creates an impulse to constantly move forward with purpose giving humanity a burning desire to bear witness to it while the Church proceeds towards its eschatological fulfillment.
The Incarnation of the Logos, brings into history He who existed before all time to guide humanity to a deeper meaning of life which is the ontological fulfillment. Our renewal in Christ within the Body of the Church constantly reveals the journey towards perfection. So the fullness of the Body implies and presupposes the Re – Creation of history where the Incarnate God takes upon himself, as St Ignatius of Antioch states, ‘ all human flesh and all creation’.
Under this concept our predecessor St. Athanasius the Great (4th Century Alexandrian Theologian, the resplendent interpreter of Alexandrian Theology which decisively formed our understanding, belief in and of the Incarnated Logos) says: ‘Against Arians 3:10’ ‘For You (God) are and made us according to Your Image and we became the Image and Glory of God but, then not primarily for us, but first and foremost, for the enslaved image in us and for the true Glory of God which is his Word did He become man. The secondary purpose of His Incarnation was for us ……… thus we have the Grace of this calling (that God became man so that man could become god)
Beloved children in Christ,
The freedom of human nature from the bondage of death and corruption is offered bountifully to everyone who approaches the Lord’s glorious and humble cave of Bethlehem. Here the Ever Virgin Theotokos is the Lord’s throne and is venerated by Joseph together with the Shepherds, the Wise Men, the natural world and all the heavens. Since then the angelic hymn of peace serenely exhorts and entreatingly beseeches us to be mindful of our neighbour and fellow man. As a result in this present life, which was honoured by the Messiah, through a unifying joy and a united Church contributes, to the world.
From the Holy See of St. Mark the Apostle and Evangelist and the Great City of Alexandria we extend our paternal and patriarchal blessings to all faithful children of our glorious Patriarchate of Alexandria. Let us pray for peace in the world and that mankind work to renew all creation through the Divine Image of Christ so that we may enjoy all the earthly and heavenly gifts generously bestowed on us by God.
With the love of the Son of God who was born of the Virgin Mary,
+ PETROS VII
Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa
In the Great City of Alexandria