Dr Agnes Abuom, WCC central committee moderator, extended condolences to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the wider ecumenical family, “He was known for his pastoral care, collegiality, spirituality and ecumenical commitment,” said Abuom in her condolence message. “He led a principled life devoted to promote ecumenism, unity, and ecumenical leadership development,” Abuom added. “ I was serving with him eight years and eight months, and leading the council to the next assembly. I can hardly understand that he is not with us in Karlsruhe.”
“When we needed him, he was there, ready to serve the ecumenical movement. May his soul rest in peace,” concluded Abuom.
Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, vice moderator of the WCC central committee said that, from her very first meeting with the WCC central committee in Geneva, Metropolitan Gennadios welcomed her and her husband with grace. “He taught me so much because his knowledge and experience with the WCC had been so extensive,” she said. “We had great teamwork as the leadership of the central committee and we lived the WCC fellowship.”
Swenson added: “I can’t imagine how we go forward without him physically present. We only know that, absent from the body, he is present with the Lord.”
WCC acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca extended condolences to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, his friends and family, who will miss him in so many ways. “We will miss his strong, ecumenical voice, and his willingness to contribute always toward striving for unity,” said Sauca. “We deeply appreciate his years of hard work and strong commitment to the ethos of consensus decision-making.”
Sauca said he will never forget the metropolitan’s many well-formulated messages of support for the WCC’s work for unity, for justice and peace, which ranged so widely and touched so many people especially the young generation across the world.
Rev. Dr Samson Olasupo A. Ayokunle (Nigerian Baptist Convention), a member of the WCC executive and central committees, extended words of comfort to the family, church and WCC colleagues.
“It is with soberness but with gratitude to God for an impactful life spent that I received the news of the passing of Metropolitan Prof. Dr Gennadios of Sassima,” said Ayokunle. “However, we should be comforted in the fact that ‘the Lord that gave equally took away’ after meritorious services in the Lord’s vineyard.”
Most Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, presiding bishop of the Church of Norway, said Metropolitan Gennadios leaves us with a great legacy for which we thank God. “His life and ministry for the one ecumenical movement are very unique, and he had close relationships to so many in the whole ecumenical family,” said Tveit. “He really was an eminent ecumenist, dedicated and extremely well informed, but also well experienced and sharp in his analysis and his formulations, improving our joint statements and reports.”
Tveit worked with Metropolitan Gennadios when the metropolitan served as vice moderator of the WCC executive and central committees during Tveit’s entire period as WCC general secretary. “He committed himself to serve in many positions, and contributed in so many ways to make our joint efforts and texts relevant and well-articulated, theologically sound and profound,” said Tveit. “We shared many moments together as we travelled and visited churches in different parts of the world.”
Tveit particularly remembers their visits to North and South Korea as they prepared the WCC 10th Assembly. “He reminded me to always thank the triune God for our ministry as a precious gift,” Tveit said. “Now we thank the triune God for the gift of the ministry of our brother Metropolitan Gennadios.”
Yusef Daher, coordinator of the Jerusalem Liaison Office, said the passing of Metropolitan Gennadios is a great loss for the ecumenical family. “God rest his soul,” said Daher. “He will always be remembered for his sincere concerns and love to the Holy Land and its people and the mother church.”
Dr Theodora Issa of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East expressed extreme sadness upon hearing the news. “Joined by my family, we extend our sincere sympathies for the loss of such an exceptional ecumenical leader,” Issa said. “May God repose his soul in the company of Saints through the intercessions of the Ever-Virgin Mother of God and grant all the necessary serenity to cope with this immense loss.”
Dr Audeh Butros Quawas, consultant general surgeon and senator for the Senate H.K. of Jordan, said that Metropolitan Gennadios was "the encyclopedia” of the WCC. “The Orthodox family has lost today a very strong personality which was working for unity, peace, reconciliation, and ecumenism,” said Quawas. “May his soul be in the heaven near to our Lord.”
Rev. Ibrahim Wushishi Yusuf, WCC programme executive for Peacebuilding in the African Region, said: “This is truly sad news to the ecumenical family, especially at the time his service is most needed. May God comfort the family, the church, and the WCC family while praying for the repose of his soul.”
Rev. Ray Coster, WCC central committee member from Aotearoa New Zealand, reflected on the huge loss to the work of WCC and the ecumenical family. “While I did not know him personally, I very much admired his wise leadership of our meetings, his humour, his intelligence and his faith,” said Coster. “I join with so many around the world who will be giving thanks to God for him and his life today.”
Rev. Dr Walter Altmann, former moderator of the WCC central committee, worked closely with Metropolitan Gennadios between the WCC 9th Assembly in Porto Alegre (2006) and the WCC 10th Assembly in Busan (2013). “Metropolitan Gennadios was not only a dedicated, highly competent, and influential Orthodox theologian, but a person always ready to give credible witness of his faith, and his lifelong deep committed to the ecumenical movement,” said Altmann. “May he rest in peace in the heavenly home. Jesus Christ is risen – he is risen, indeed.
Rt Rev. Rex Reyes, Anglican bishop of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, said: “I am sad to hear the news but rejoice that God saw fit to call him home.”
Rev. Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus, WCC interim deputy general secretary and director of the WCC Commission on Faith and Order, noted that the work of the Commission on Faith and Order was one of the dearest passions of Metropolitan Gennadios. “I saw him serving Faith and Order in the late 1980s and saw him engaged in the future of Faith and Order in recent weeks,” said Pedroso Mateus. “Always with the same enthusiasm.”
Lona Wilson Lupai, from South Sudan, extended thoughts and prayers to the family. “WCC was honoured to have him serving as member of WCC executive and central committees all these years,” said Lupai. “Frankly speaking, when I think of the central committee, it is the image of Metropolitan Gennadios always that I see—and Dr Agnes.”
Rt Rev. Dr Robert Innes, Anglican diocesan bishop, said that Metropolitan Gennadios embodied our contemporary quest for Christian unity. “He has been a core member of the leadership of the WCC for many years and a true servant of the ecumenical movement,” said Innes. “His contribution to building understanding between Eastern and Western Christians has been immense.”
Rev. Dr Martin Robra, who has been a key contributor to the ecumenical movement for the last 25 years, working for the WCC, communicated heartfelt condolences to the WCC leadership and staff. “We will miss him, his wisdom, knowledge, humour and vision so much on our way to the assembly and beyond,” said Robra. “He helped to shape the WCC and the ecumenical movement as a fellowship of churches in decisive ways, deepening relationships and the sense of mutual belonging and togetherness! We thank God for the great gift he was.”
Rev. Nicole Ashwood, WCC programme executive for Just Community of Women and Men, said: “Death is never easy, nor convenient. Praying for the ecumenical community, especially our Orthodox siblings at the WCC, within and across the fellowship.”
Hannelore Schmid said: “It will be hard to imagine the WCC without Metropolitan Gennadios.”
Rev. Dr R. Rutoro said: “This is sad news and heartbreaking indeed. May the Holy Spirit our Greater Comforter meet the family at the point of need. Also may his soul rest in eternal peace. He has done great service for Christ's church the world over.”
Deacon Adebayo Anthony Kehinde, ecumenical officer, The Church of The Lord Worldwide, recalled meeting Metropolitan Gennadios at the first central committee meeting following the WCC 10th Assembly in Busan, where Kehinde served as a steward.
“At every opportunity, he would engage me and ask about my experience which I was so joyful but also nervous to share, considering his intimidating personality yet well balanced with his sense of humor,” said Kehinde. “On behalf of our Patriarch, His Holiness, Most Rev Dr Rufus Oshitelu, I offered my condolences for this loss while praying for his soul to continue to rest in perfect peace.”
Dr Louk Andrianos, WCC consultant on the Care for Creation, Sustainability and Climate Justice, reflected on the Bible verse: "He has fought the good fight, he have finished his race, he has kept the faith. Now there is in store for him the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to him on that day—and not only to him, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). With this biblical verse, we express our deep gratitude to his restless work for unity, peace and justice at the WCC for many years. His patriarchal love and advocacy for the marginalized communities and creation were inspiring! May his soul rest in peace and God strengthen his family.”
Philip Wright extended sincerest condolences and prayers. “May light perpetually shine on him and may his soul rest in peace,” Wright said.
Laurent Schlumberger shared a strong impression of Metropolitan Gennadios as a man who listened to others, who was thoughtful, tenacious, extremely patient, and eager to see that each person find his or her place and be valued, at the service of the whole. “In this regard, he has always seemed to me to be a man of communion who magnificently embodied the spirit of the World Council of Churches. It is with great sadness and appreciation that I pay tribute to this brother in Jesus Christ.”
Joris Vercammen, emeritus Archbishop of Utrecht (Old Catholic Communion of the Union of Utrecht) and a member of the WCC central committee, offered condolences to the WCC and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, remembering the metropolitan as a reliable and committed Christian who believed in the goals of the ecumenical movement. “As a vice moderator of the central committee he was a sincere leader who tried to honour the diversity among the member churches,” said Vercammen. "I have great respect for the way he played often a crucial moderating role in finding solutions to a diversity of difficult issues.”
His Eminence Dr Emmanuel Josiah Udofia, primate, The African Church, expressed a deep sense of loss but with gratitude to God for a life well spent. “He was a great man who served the Lord and the WCC with all diligence, his enormous contributions for the growth and development of WCC can not be overemphasized and this makes him unforgettable in history,” said Udofia. “He served the WCC and the entire body of Christ committedly, loyally and with distinction.”
Udofia added: “I am convinced his memory shall remain evergreen in WCC, family and every other sphere of his influence.”
Rt Rev. Dhiloraj Canagasabey, Anglican Bishop of Colombo in Sri Lanka and a member of the WCC central committee, said: “We are shocked and so sorry to hear about this sad news. I have living memories of a unique person who lived by deep spiritual values and was a man of principles.”
Bishop M A Daniel, WCC central committee member, said the passing of Metropolitan Gennadios will create a “big vacuum” in the WCC and in the other organizations he represents.
"In him, the WCC has lost a great leader, an ambassador, mediator to bring churches together, and an eminent scholar and theologian of sound thinking,” said Daniel. “He was a great blessing to the entire Christiandom of the world to represent Christ to build His Kingdom.”
Daniel added: “On behalf of the Methodist Church In India, we express our deep grief and sorrow, and extend our heartfelt condolences to his family members and friends, and we sincerely uphold them in our prayers for God's comfort and peace.”
Prof. Dr Obiora Francis Ike, executive director, Globethics.net, extended heartfelt condolences. “We are with you at this difficult time; a shining star has gone out, and the light he brought to his community, to the ecumenical movement and to the world is greatly missed,” said Ike.
Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church Department of External Church Relations, expressed deep grief. “I knew Metropolitan Gennadios for many years,” said Metropolitan Hilarion. “We wогkеd together оп the platform of the Wогld Council of Churches and other international organizations, as well as in the sрhеге of iпtеr-Orthodox relations,” said Metropolitan Hilarion. “Не was ап outstanding church diрlоmаt, а gifted theologian and а kind mап.”
Dr Mathews George Chunakara, general secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia, said has been one of the towering Christian leaders who greatly contributed to the life and witness of the global ecumenical movement.
“Often perceived as a serious person in his external appearance, Metropolitan Gennadios was pastoral, compassionate, and knowledgeable, as well as skilful in handling complex issues with sensitivity, often easing a tense situation with a sense of humour,” said Chunakara.
Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, sent a letter of condolence to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. “At this time of profound grief, we recall with heartfelt gratitude Metropolitan Gennadios’s longstanding and tireless commitment to the cause of Christian unity,” wrote Koch. “Due to his responsibilities in the World Council of Churches and in the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, there were many occasions for personal meetings, enabling us to deepen our appreciation for his openness to dialogue towards all.”
Rév. Astride Ntumba Mayamba expressed condolences to the family of Metropolitan Gennadios. “May Almighty God console and assist the whole family and the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” said Mayamba.
Bishop Petra Bosse-Huber, head of the Department for Ecumenical Relations and Ministries Abroad of the Protestant Church in Germany, expressed appreciation for the leadership strength of Metropolitan Gennadios.
“Metropolitan Gennadios will remain in our hearts as companion on the way with great knowledge and with a spirit of real friendship and love in Christ,” said Bosse-Huber.
Dr Iosif Bosch, metropolitan of Buenos Aires and South America, wrote a tribute to Metropolitan Gennadios as the person who introduced him to ecumenism as a service to the church.
"Gennadios, as I already mentioned, was a person of intrinsic elegance, which was not acquired for the purpose of ever having more purchasing power or earning honorary badges at the expense of his mission,” wrote Bosch. “At the same time, he was always ahead of his time, a progressive, and a realist, although deep down inside - and paradoxically - also a hopeless romantic.”
Bosch expressed appreciation for their direct and honest relationship. “He gave me my first liturgical clothes, which I still have, even before me knew me; he led me and guided me countless times when I was lost as a young priest,” said Bosch. “May the earth that covers you, Gennadios, be as light and subtle as your soul.”
WCC member churches in Latin America and the Caribbean expressed their deep regret over the unexpected passing of Metropolitan. Gennadios. “We send our most sincere and heartfelt condolences to the family and to the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” their message said. “We pray for his family. We pray for the grace and peace of Risen Jesus to comfort them. We will always remember him as dynamic, creative, and determined. We will honour his life and legacy.”
Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima was also moderator of the Assembly Planning Committee, as well as the Permanent Committee on Consensus. He served as moderator of the Worship Committee during WCC 9th Assembly in Porto Alegre.
His lifetime of support for the WCC began when he first served as a steward at the WCC 4th Assembly in Uppsala in 1968. He wrote more than 400 theological studies, books, articles and works in various Greek and foreign journals on Orthodox Theology and universal content, in various languages.
A professor of Orthodox theology and canon law in various universities, he was a vice-moderator of the WCC's Faith and Order Commission from 1998-2006. He served as co-president of the Joint International Theological Dialogue between Orthodox and Lutheran, co-secretary and member of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, co-chairman of the Orthodox and Methodist and Baptist theological preparatory committees.
Metropolitan Gennadios served as a member of the presidium and of the governing board of the Conference of European Churches. He was a member of the WCC executive and central committees since 2002. From 1983-93, he was a staff member of the WCC's Faith and Order secretariat in Geneva, and he served as vice-moderator of the WCC Faith and Order Commission since 2015.
In 2015, he was honoured with the title of “Doctor honoris causa” from the University of Athens, Greece. The decision to grant Gennadios an honorary doctorate was taken upon recommendation from the Department of Theology of the Faculty of Theology and through unanimous agreement of the governing body of the National and Capodistrian University of Athens, the oldest institution for higher education in modern Greece.
In 2012, he was awarded an honorary fellowship by the Orthodox Academy of Crete in recognition of his work for peace, dialogue and Christian witness.
In 2010, he was awarded a doctor honoris causa degree by the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, USA.
The funeral will take place in Greece, followed by memorial services with dates to be determined.
In one of his most recent public appearances, Metropolitan Gennadios said WCC member churches had responded positively to the invitation to name delegates for the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe.
He said he hoped the Karlsruhe assembly would remind the churches of their commitment to continue their work for visible unity and Christian fellowship, a pilgrimage from which no one would be excluded.
All those who wish to share a message in memory of Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima, are invited to send their thoughts by email to [email protected]. Tributes have been issued to Metropolitan Gennadios and a memorial service will be held in the Ecumenical Centre in June 2022.