WCC remembers Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Throne Boris Bobrinskoy

Protopresbyter Boris Bobrinskoy, one of the best-known Orthodox theologians in France and a former member of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Faith and Order Commission, passed away in Paris in the night from 6 to 7 August at the age of 95.

He was highly respected for the contributions he made to ecumenical dialogues and academic institutions over many decades. In a tribute published in its website, the WCC celebrated Bobrinskoy’s “long and impressive ecumenical pilgrimage.”

Professor of Dogmatic Theology at the St Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris for over 50 years and long-time responsible for the Orthodox participation in the Institute for Ecumenical Studies, created by the Catholic Institute of Paris, he also taught at the Protestant University of Neuchâtel and the Catholic University of Paris.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) mourns the loss of Protopresbyter Boris Bobrinskoy, one of the best-known Orthodox theologians in France, and pays tribute to a highly appreciated ecumenical companion who deepened in his writings “the silence of the Father, whose mercy is the eternal source of authentic love and true unity.” Continue reading

Ecumenical Review focuses on Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church

The latest issue of The Ecumenical Review, the quarterly journal of the World Council of Churches (WCC), focuses on the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, held in Crete in June 2016, the result of more than a century of efforts to gather the Orthodox churches to reach a common mind on the main challenges they face.

“Looking back on the 20th‐century history of the efforts that led to the Holy and Great Council, these were intertwined with the development of the ecumenical movement itself,” editor Stephen G. Brown writes in the opening editorial to the issue, which offers reflections by Orthodox leaders and scholars writing from a range of perspectives about the Holy and Great Council.

This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the ecumenical encyclical Ut unum sint (That they may be one) of Pope John Paul II, and the issue includes the lecture to mark the anniversary by the WCC’s former WCC general secretary Most Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, to the Institute for Ecumenical Studies at St Thomas Aquinas Pontifical University in Rome.

The Ecumenical Review is published four times a year by Wiley on behalf of the WCC.

New 2022 date decided for WCC 11th Assembly

The executive committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC) has approved a new date for the WCC 11th Assembly, which will now be held in Karlsruhe, Germany, from 31 August – 8 September 2022. Originally planned for 2021, the event was postponed by one year because of the gravity and uncertainties related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Inspired by the theme ‘Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity,’ our fellowship will come together as a whole in prayer and celebration in Karlsruhe,” said Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, interim WCC general secretary.

“Being the most diverse Christian gathering of its size in the world, the assembly will be a unique opportunity for the churches to deepen their commitment to visible unity and common witness,” Sauca said. “We will draw renewed energy for the WCC’s work far beyond the event itself.” Continue reading

Muslim leaders in solidarity with WCC’s urgent calls to keep Hagia Sophia a place of openness

On 11 July, World Council of Churches (WCC) interim general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca sent a letter to the Turkish president expressing “grief and dismay,” noting that since 1934, “Hagia Sophia has been a place of openness, encounter and inspiration for people from all nations and religions.”

The letter generated widespread reactions from churches and the media—and also from Muslim leaders.

Sauca met online with H.E. Judge Mohamad Abdel Salam, general secretary of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity (HCHF), special adviser of the Grand Imam of al Azhar Cheikh Ahmad al Tayeb, and special adviser of the Muslim Council of Elders.

A letter from the HCHF, signed by Abdel Salam, stated: “In recognition of the cultural and spiritual value of Hagia Sophia for humanity all over the world, we support your call to avoid divisions and to promote mutual respect and understanding among all religions, and it gives me pleasure to attach herewith a copy of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity’s statement regarding this issue.” Continue reading

World Communion of Reformed Churches’ Letter to President Erdogan concerning Hagia Sophia

Rev Dr Chris Ferguson, General Secretary of World Communion of Reformed Churches, wrote to His Excellency Recep Tayyip Erdogan President of the Republic of Turkey on 21 July , 2020 concerning the change of the Status of the Hagia Sophia:

Mr. President,

On 10 July 2020, the Turkish Council of State had decreed that the Hagia Sophia can only be used as a mosque and not for any other purpose. On the same day you issued a presidential decree ordering Hagia So- phia to be opened for Muslim prayers, which are planned to commence on 24 July.

Today we approach you to express our grave concern about the dangerous impact that this change of the status of the Hagia Sophia will have. Due to the seriousness of the situation, we copy this letter to the Direc- tor-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who have expressed their willingness to contribute to a constructive solution of the situation.
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Preserve Hagia Sophia as a shared heritage, Lutheran World Federation urges Turkey

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has cautioned that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent decree designating the Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque undermines the significance of “a publicly shared space” that “symbolizes openness and inclusiveness.”

In a letter to President Erdoğan sent on 15 July, 2020, LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge called for a process of dialogue and consultation to reaffirm the world cultural heritage “as a space for interreligious dialogue and understanding that points to our common humanity.”

Hagia Sophia brings “Christians and Muslims as well as people of other faiths or no faith at all into a deep understanding of the past and its influence on the present and the future,” Junge wrote. Continue reading

Religions for Peace Speaks Out on Hagia Sophia: Living Together with Peace and Respect

In a 24 July 2020 statement on Hagia Sophia, Religions for Peace reiterated its commitment to the universality of heritage as something that can create peace and respect for all faiths:

We, men and women faith leaders, come together in this moment of history, to speak as one voice.[1] We refer to the powerful statements already made about events around the Hagia Sophia, by some of us – including His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch BartholomewHis Holiness Pope Francis, the World Council of ChurchesMiddle East Council of Churches and KAICIID. As we hear our Christian brethren, we raise our voices as faith leaders representing Baháʼí, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Indigenous Spirituality, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Zoroastrian faiths.

Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is meant to be shared with all the world.  We are committed to the universality of heritage as something that can create peace and respect for all faiths.

As faith leaders, we recognize and accept the sacred duty and the responsibilities of appealing to the highest instincts of our shared humanity, and service to the Divine within and among all. Continue reading

WCC letter to President Erdogan to keep Hagia Sophia as the shared heritage of humanity

In a letter to H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of the Republic of Turkey, dated of 11 July, 2020, the World Council of Churches interim general secretary Rev. Prof Dr Ioan Sauca is expressing his fervent hope and prayer that Hagia Sophia will not become once again a focus of confrontation and conflict, but will be restored to the emblematic unifying role that it has served since 1934. Here is the content of the letter:

Dear Mr President,

Since it began functioning as a museum in 1934, Hagia Sophia has been a place of openness, encounter and inspiration for people from all nations and religions, and a powerful expression of the Republic of Turkey’s commitment to secularism and inclusion and of its desire to leave behind the conflicts of the past.

Today, however, I am obliged to convey to you the grief and dismay of the World Council of Churches – and of its 350 member churches in more than 110 countries, representing more than half a billion Christians around the world – at the step you have just taken. By deciding to convert the Hagia Sophia back to a mosque you have reversed that positive sign of Turkey’s openness and changed it to a sign of exclusion and division. Regrettably, this decision has also been taken without prior notice or discussion with UNESCO regarding the impact of this decision on Hagia Sophia’s universal value recognized under the World Heritage Convention. Continue reading

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sends greetings to Pope Francis

This year, due to the pandemic of the coronavirus, the Ecumenical Patriarchate was unable to send a delegation to the Church of Rome on the occasion of her Thronal Feast, the feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, on 29 June 2020. Nevertheless, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sent the following letter to Pope Francis:

His Holiness Francis, Pope of Elder Rome: rejoice in the Lord.

In concelebrating with You the all-sacred memory of St. Peter, Chief among the Apostles, along with St. Paul, Preacher to the Nations and “Apostle of freedom,” who joyously proclaimed the Gospel of the all-saving Divine Oikonomia and gave their lives as martyrs in Rome, we address to Your Holiness our wholehearted wishes and greet You in godly embrace.

The prevailing pandemic of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 has rendered impossible the commission and presence of a formal Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to Your See for the Thronal Feast of the Church of Rome, as customary over the last decades. We participate from a distance in this festive joy and venerate here with devotion the sacred relics of Peter, the founder of Your Church, the brother of Andrew, our Patron and First-Called among the Apostles, as we also draw strength and blessing from those relics that You kindly gifted to the Church of Constantinople. Continue reading

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew about Hagia Sophia

On 30 June 2020, during the Divine Liturgy for the feast of the 12 Apostles celebrated in the church of 12 Apostles at Feriköy, Istanbul, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew made the following comment concerning the fate of Hagia Sophia, the basilica of the Holy Wisdom built by Emperor Justinian in 537, which used to be the cathedral of the Ecumenical Patriarchate until it was turned into a mosque in 1453 before it became a museum in 1935:

The conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque is a widely discussed topic. In the context of the various discussions that have taken place about this subject, our Modesty has repeatedly expressed the position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its spiritual children all over the world. In 2016, we even sent a Letter to the then Director of Religious Affairs, Prof. Mehmet Görmez, to whom we expressed our concern for the proposed alteration of the status of Hagia Sophia and we underlined that this unique monument obtained sacred value for both monotheistic religions, because it had served as a place of the worship of God for 900 years for the Christians and for 500 years for the Muslims. We concluded that Letter by saying that we consider as detrimental, Hagia Sophia, which, due to its dedication to the Wisdom of God is a point of encounter and a source of fascination for the faithful of both religions, to become, in the 21st century, a cause of confrontation and conflict. Continue reading