Fifty-two delegates representing 20 Eastern and Oriental Orthodox WCC member churches are participating in the gathering. The Church of Greece is being represented by Metropolitan Gabriel of Nea Ionia.
“We are praying, studying, discussing, and reflecting on the main theme of the assembly, ‘Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity,’ from an Orthodox perspective,” explained Prof. Dr. Ioan Sauca, WCC acting general secretary. “Discussions are also centering around current global challenges and how the Orthodox agenda at the WCC 11th Assembly can keep the dialogue open.”
In introductory remarks, Sauca reflected on the uniqueness of bringing the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches together in these difficult and challenging times, and on the crucial role of the WCC in convening them.
He also expressed appreciation for the active role that Metropolitan Prof. Dr. Gennadios of Sassima, vice-moderator of the WCC central committee and moderator of the Assembly Planning Committee, has had over the years in planning the inter-Orthodox pre-assembly meetings, including the current one.
“It is so important that we come together to form a common Orthodox vision for the WCC assembly,” said Sauca. “I extend my hope toward that.”
Cypriot presidential commissioner Photis Photiou shared an opening welcome, commending the Orthodox churches for coming together, and thanking the World Council of Churches for providing “an open platform” for dialogue and for listening to one another.
The local host of the meeting, Metropolitan Vasilios of Constantia and Ammochostos (Orthodox Church of Cyprus), also shared words of welcome and reflected on the ongoing quest for reconciliation. He thanked those attending for their willingness to work toward a vision for the assembly.
Dr. Odair Pedroso Mateus, interim deputy general secretary and director of the WCC Commission on Faith and Order, gave an overview of the new publication “Pilgrims on the Path of Peace: The Journey of the WCC from Busan to Karlsruhe.”
“Spirituality, formation, and prayer…belong to each other, and their mutual belonging is visible in important ecumenical spaces such as the Bossey Ecumenical Institute where we bring, every year, cultural diversity and confessional diversity into common life, common prayer, and common study,” said Pedroso Mateus.
WCC director of the Office of the General Secretariat Doug Chial and Charlotte Belot, assembly administrator, offered a presentation on preparations for the WCC 11th Assembly, including expected outcomes and the significance of the first assembly in Europe since 1968.
Chial also touched on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Finally, Chial shared that an unprecedented 90% of WCC member churches and 99% of Orthodox churches are sending delegates to the assembly.
The assembly introduction also included a word from the local assembly office in Karlsruhe, Germany, under the leadership of Dr. Marc Witzenbacher, who provided an overview of the local preparations to host the assembly.
In the afternoon, the pre-assembly focused on the meaning of the theme “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity.”
“The theme of the next WCC assembly in 2022 is a faith affirmation centering on Christ’s love: Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity,” said Sauca, and concluded: ”Against all powers of destruction and sin, it sees the person of the crucified and risen Christ at the heart of this world.”