WCC acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca led the delegation, which included WCC director of Communication Marianne Ejdersten, and Michel Nseir, WCC programme executive on Syria. Middle East Council of Churches secretary general Dr Michel Abs accompanied the delegation.
The visit began with a meeting with His Holiness Catholicos Aram I, Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Cilicia, at the Catholicosate in Antelias, during which discussions centered on the importance of building bridges between eastern and western churches, and the need to listen to the challenges of each aiming at working for a better and safer future.
Catholicos Aram underlined the role and the importance of the WCC as the facilitator and bridge-builder with dialogue at its heart. Catholicos Aram served as moderator of the WCC central committee from 1991-2006.
The WCC delegation also visited the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church in the Rabieh region, meeting with Rev. Joseph Kassab, general secretary of the Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, and president of the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Synod in Syria and Lebanon, in the presence of Rev. Najla Kassab, president of the World Communion of Reformed Churches.
During that meeting, participants tackled the issue of the Christian presence in the region as well as the theology of the land, stressing the importance of consolidating an ecumenical spirit among the churches.
The WCC delegation ended its tour in Beirut by visiting the headquarters of the Middle East Council of Churches.
Sauca said he heard and listened to the concerns of people in the region amid the many challenges they are facing.
“We came to listen to the situations and expectations of our sisters and brothers in the Middle East, so that we can share those with the WCC 11th Assembly,” he said. "You have the power to continue your witness and presence here in this cradle of Christianity. I see you have a strong faith in witnessing to who you are and what is your message.”
Sauca also expressed the solidarity of the member churches with the people of Middle East. “As sisters and brothers from other parts of the world, we are with you. Please be sure you are not alone,” he said. “We are aware of your your struggles and tragedies, and we express our solidarity with your struggle for survival and for a better life for future generations.”
Abs offered words about the importance of ecumenical and human solidarity. “From the gateway to the eastern Mediterranean and its pearl, Beirut, this ecumenical delegation came to the Middle East in order to visit spiritual leaders who historically constituted the pillars of ecumenical work,” he said.
Abs said the delegation expressed concern for people’s destiny, their lives, and their futures. “Welcome to the land of contradictions and tragedies,” he said. “In this difficult time, a delegation from the World Council of Churches moved to visit us and appraise our situation in a trend of Christian-human solidarity well known to our sister organizations, our partners, for half of a century of struggle.”
He added: “The delegation that preaches peace and justice came, bringing with it all the love of the disciples of the Incarnate Master who took our place on the cross in order for us to have a better life.”
Abs also spoke of the difficulty of daily life for so many in the region. “The visit of the ecumenical delegation with the impact of successive catastrophes and disasters in large parts of the Arab countries, our country, where we are witnessing a decline at all levels as a result of the siege imposed on them,” he said. “The decline includes general stability in various fields, which is reflected at the level of income, standard of living, status of prevention and medical care, quality of nutrition and housing, and the list goes on.”
Faith and courage marked the visit, added Abs. “Only in this region will you find the last people in the world who are still under occupation and under unacceptable conditions by all standards,” he said. “The eagerness to come to us, assess our conditions, and remind us that we are not alone is a deeply considerate behavior.”
Abs said: “You came to us to share them with faith and courage. As general secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches, I send my best regards to your churches, organizations and peoples and convey to you our gratitude for the solidarity that you have never ceased to show us in various forms.”
"A Delegation from the World Council of Churches On a Visit to Beirut" (MECC news release 7 July 2022)