Through prayer, songs and meaningful words, central committee members—gathering for the first time in nearly four years—expressed their grief at losing members of the global ecumenical family.
Names of those lost were read in a solemn tribute, then special tributes were read for the late Metropolitan Prof. Dr Gennadios of Sassima.
Archbishop Dr Vicken Aykazian (Armenian Church of America), expressed his grief at the absence of Metropolitan Gennadios. “He was indeed an icon. He was one of the best ecumenists I have ever seen in my life,” he said. “I think he was, in himself, the World Council of Churches.”
Archbishop Aykazian also delivered a message on the depths and understanding of compassion.
Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, vice moderator of the WCC central committee, shared a tribute that recalled the history of the current central committee’s time with Metropolitan Gennadios. “May we learn from who he was and how he was with us, and may we carry forth that Christian witness in our lives in every way that we live and serve on this planet, until we can all gather together in the new Jerusalem where there will be no more tears and the light of Christ will shine up us all,” she said.
Miriam Jane Weibye (Church of Scotland), shared words of comfort. “As what we might call an elder statesman of ecumenism, but remembering well his own time as a youth participant in the WCC, he welcomed young ecumenists as full participating members committee members, always willing to trust our abilities and listen to our voices,” she said. “As we all know, it isn’t always easy to hold together a group of people with opposing views in a debate, but he could do it, and have us all coming out of the room together in friendship.”
Rev. Dr Henriette Hutabarat Lebang (Toraja Church, Indonesia), expressed deep mourning. “He began his global ecumenical journey at the age of 17, as a WCC steward at the WCC 4th Assembly of WCC in 1968, bringing in the flavor of Orthodoxy among the youth,” she said. “He had dedicated his life for the promotion of ecumenism and ecumenical development with a strong commitment to unity, justice and peace.”
Teny Pirri-Simonian (Armenian Apostolic Church, Holy See of Cilicia), said recalled her first meeting with Metropolitan Gennadios when she joined the WCC as staff. “Right from the start, he strongly encouraged my participation as an Orthodox woman from the Middle East,” she said. “During the challenging years of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the earthquake in Armenia in 1988, he as moderator and I as secretary of the Orthodox Task Force, strived together with those in the WCC to empower the Orthodox churches to contribute actively to the WCC’s programmes and strengthen ecumenical relations at all levels.”