“THE CHURCH TOWARDS A COMMON VISION”
Faith and Order Paper No. 214
Paralimni, Cyprus, 6–13 October 2016
- The consultation met from 6 to 13 October 2016, with the goal of responding to “The Church: Towards a Common Vision” (TCTCV), Faith and Order Paper No. 214, WCC, Geneva, 2013, in the Holy Metropolitanate of Constantia-Ammochostos in Paralimni, Cyprus, upon the invitation of the World Council of Churches (WCC), and thanks to the gracious hospitality of H. B. Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus and of H. E. Vasilios, Metropolitan of Constantia-Ammochostos. H.E. Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima (Ecumenical Patriarchate) and H.E. Metropolitan Bishoy of Damietta (Coptic Church) co-moderated the encounter. H.E. Metropolitan Vasilios, former moderator and presently member of the WCC Faith and Order Commission, received and hosted the participants in his diocese. Thirty hierarchs, priests, deacons, university professors, lay (male and female) and youth, coming from Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodox Churches, as well as representatives of the WCC Faith and Order Commission, were present. Some of the participants in this meeting are also members of the WCC Faith and Order Commission. The consultation heard and discussed positions of several Orthodox Churches and theologians as well as papers, addressing the TCTCV Text. A similar consultation held 2-9 March 2011 in Agia Napa/Paralimni and hosted by Metropolitan Vasilios, featured several concrete and precise proposals for redrafting the Text “The Nature and Mission of the Church.” The Text of TCTCV incorporated many of the suggestions made at the Agia Napa/Paralimni consultation.
- The WCC Central Committee in 2012 received the Faith and Order Text no. 214, entitled “The Church: Towards a Common Vision”, and sent it to the churches “to encourage further reflection on the Church and seek their formal responses to the text” (TCTCV, Foreword, p. vi) until the end of this year. The Text seeks to express common convictions about the role of the Church, its nature and mission, and to identify issues and ecclesiological difficulties which continue to divide the churches today. This Text has already been sent officially to the WCC member churches, inviting them to study and evaluate the document as well as to offer their reactions and responses. The purpose of this consultation is to formulate a common Orthodox response to TCTCV Text.
- Convening such an Inter-Orthodox consultation is not new: several similar consultations have been planned and organized by the WCC in the past, facilitating the process of a common Orthodox response – but also contribution – to major WCC studies. Members from almost all the Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodox Churches participated at this consultation. Present from the Eastern Orthodox Church were: the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Patriarchate of Alexandria, Patriarchate of Antioch, Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Patriarchate of Moscow, Patriarchate of Serbia, Patriarchate of Romania, Church of Cyprus, Church of Greece, Church of Albania, Orthodox Church of Finland, and the Orthodox Church in America. Present from the Oriental Orthodox Churches were: the Armenian Apostolic Church, Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, Armenian Apostolic Church, Holy See of Cilicia, Coptic Orthodox Church, and the Syrian Orthodox Church of Malankara. In addition, local organizers, guests and WCC staff participated.
- Along with discussion on a series of various topics, the program included daily prayers and several visits to local parishes and monasteries. On 6 October, an opening morning prayer was celebrated in the chapel of Agia Anna in Paralimni. At the opening session, H.E. Metropolitan Prof. Dr. Gennadios of Sassima, after greeting all participants, conveyed the prayers and the best wishes of H.A.H. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and expressed gratitude and warm thanks to Metropolitan Vasilios and his staff for his generous hospitality, extended regularly to inter-Orthodox and ecumenical gatherings, and he also highlighted his contribution to finalizing the Text. Rev. Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus, director of the Faith and Order Secretariat, read a message from Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC. In his message, the general secretary greeted the participants and expressed his gratitude to the host and to the co-moderators. He also expressed his confidence that the response “formulated on behalf of the Orthodox member churches shall constitute a valuable document in the process of reception of ‘The Church: Towards a Common Vision’ in the life of our WCC fellowship.”
- On Sunday, 9 October all the members attended the Divine Liturgy which was concelebrated at Saint George’s Cathedral in Paralimni, by Metropolitans Vasilios, Gennadios, Seraphim of Zimbabwe and Angola, Archbishop Theophanes of Gerasa and many clergy. After the Liturgy, the members of the consultation travelled to Nicosia where they visited the Cathedral of Saint John the Theologian at the Archbishopric of Cyprus, and were welcomed by Archbishop Chrysostomos II who offered an official lunch. Metropolitan Gennadios thanked him, on behalf of the participants, for the great hospitality expressed in many ways and several times. A pilgrimage visit to St. Thekla women`s monastery followed. Unfortunately an attempt to conduct a visit to the occupied area of Cyprus was prevented by the occupying authorities, who refused at the border to admit the group.
- On Tuesday, 11 October the participants visited the church of the Mother of God the Theotokos (Panaghia Angeloktisti), the tomb of Saint Lazarus and the monastery of Saint Raphael and Saint Marina.
- Participants expressed warm thanks and gratitude to the WCC general secretary, and to the director and staff of WCC Faith and Order Commission for preparing and organizing this consultation.
- After intensive discussion and thorough consideration of TCTCV Text, the consultation issued a common response which will be submitted to WCC Faith and Order Commission.
Paralimni, 12th October 2016.