Letter to His Holiness Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, and Supreme Head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church

Your Holiness,

With deep gratitude to the Triune God, the God of life, and with great joy we have received the good news of your election as Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, Supreme Head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church. We congratulate your fellow bishops for this election and we join the faithful of your Church in their joy at having a new Patriarch and spiritual Father.

We are fully aware that in these particularly difficult and challenging times for the Middle East and the entire world, your leadership, your spiritual support and your wise counsel, your discernment and your guidance are much needed and will be deeply valued by the faithful of the Syrian Orthodox Church and Christians in the Middle East, and also by all people of good will in the region, and in the world as a whole.

We recall with affection and gratitude the pastoral tenderness of your predecessor, whom you have faithfully served as personal assistance and later one of his fellow bishops. We pray God to strengthen you, to guide you and to accompany you in your new ministry, as you continue along the path of your predecessor of blessed memory, indeed the path of a very long chain of Primates, going back to the time of the apostles.

Together with the many spiritual challenges and needs of your people, you will have to struggle for peace in the region and in the world, for refugees and migrants, for the victims of violence and war, for dialogue and cooperation, for reconciliation. We feel sure that the long and rich Syrian Orthodox theological, spiritual and pastoral tradition will guide your decisions.

Your Holiness, we are grateful for your very first actions as Patriarch-elect: your prayer for the region and the world, your readiness to strengthen the faith, your willingness to cooperate with the heads of sister churches, your continuing support for the ecumenical movement, your commitment to the cause of Christian unity.

The World Council of Churches recalls with gratitude your active participation in the ecumenical movement, as a member of the WCC’s central and executive committees, but also as a committed participant in the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA and a founding member of the Christian Churches Together in the USA. We hope that you will continue offering leadership to the ecumenical movement at the national, regional and global levels.

Congratulations! May God bless your new ministry.

I will be honoured and happy to meet Your Holiness in the near future.

Yours in our common Lord and Saviour,

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
WCC general secretary