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Prof. Dr Todor Sabev

Tribute by WCC general secretary Samuel Kobia

15 September 2008

Geneva, 15 September 2008

For this week of 15 September 2008 the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle proposes to keep Bulgaria and her churches in our prayers.

It is from Bulgaria that, at the beginning of this week, we have received the sad news about the passing on of Todor Sabev on 13 September, in his native village of Ostrets.

Born in Bulgaria in 1928, Prof. Dr Sabev, an eminent lay theologian and church historian, a pioneer of the ecumenical movement in the Eastern European and Orthodox contexts, faithfully served his church, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and the ecumenical movement for several decades.

Professor of Church History at the Theological Academy of Sofia, he founded and headed the Institute for Church History and Archives of the Bulgarian Patriarchate. Soon after the Bulgarian Orthodox Church joined the World Council of Churches (1961) he was appointed a member of the Ecumenical Commission and, later, when the Commission was transformed into a Department for Inter-church and Ecumenical Relations he was appointed Deputy Chairman.

Meanwhile, from 1968-1975, he served as member of the Central and Executive Committees of the World Council of Churches, as member of the Commission of Unit II, and vice-moderator of CICARWS.

He joined the staff of the World Council of Churches in 1979 as Deputy General Secretary, offering leadership to the Department on Unity and Witness and ensuring the Relationships with the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. His contribution to the "Sofia Consultation", in 1981, focusing on Orthodox participation in the WCC, his leadership to the Joint Working Group between the WCC and the Roman Catholic Church, his involvement with the Christian World Communions and the bi-lateral theological dialogues constitute only a small part of the heavy ecumenical legacy he leaves behind him.

A prolific writer, with a great number of historical, theological and ecumenical articles and books, an editor and co-editor of numerous scientific collections published by the Synodical Publishing House of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, author of scripts for films on the history of his church, Prof. Dr Todor Sabev was widely known, respected and valued in academic, theological and ecumenical circles.

A devoted friend and colleague, he gained the trust and confidence of all those he has worked with. He will be remembered for his kindness and openness, his readiness to serve all at all moments and under all circumstances. Because of his personality combining moral authority and human warmth, he played the role of bridge-builder between the East and the West, between Orthodox and other member churches of the WCC, between the fellowship of member churches and the Roman Catholic Church.

Our thoughts and prayers accompany his family: his wife Simeonka, his daughter Sabina and his son Ventséslav.

"Within Your peace, O Lord, where all Your saints repose, give rest also to the soul of Your servant Todor, for You alone are immortal" (Prayer from the Orthodox Tradition for the departed).

May his memory be eternal!

Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia
WCC general secretary