CONFRENCE OF THE HEADS OF ORIENTAL ORTHODOX CHURCHES
CONCLUDING SPEECH OF HIS IMPERIAL MAJESTY TO THE CONFRENCE OF HEADS OF ORIENTAL ORTHODOX CHURCHES
The psalmist says: “The king shall rejoice in thy strength O Lord! And in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice! His glory is great in thy salvation: Honour and majesty hast though laid upon him” (Ps. 21 1&5.)
It is with a heart full of joy and thankfulness that I stand here today. I am reminded of the words of the old Simon when he saw the child Jesus. Simon had been waiting to see the consolation of
This day is a great day for all of us, and for our Churches. We have always been one in our faith, but for centuries our Churches lived in isolation. That isolation has been broken. At this conference, our Churches have been brought together once again. In brotherly love, we considered our problems together. We made many unanimous decisions. We have seen a new beginning for our ancient Churches. Our hearts go out in gratitude to God.
On this historic occasion, we all want to say a special word about His Imperial Majesty, Haile Sellassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia. He reminds us of some of the great Christian Emperors in the early history of the Christian Church. It was His vision that brought us together. In His very inspiring opening address. His Imperial Majesty remained us about the duties of the Church in the modern world. His wisdom, piety, and love of peace, have been an example for us. The vast amount of money, the time, and the energy spent on this conference showed how much His Imperial Majesty is concerned about the good of the Church. At this time I specially remember His Imperial Majesty’s visit to
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Imperial Ethiopian Government have made our stay in
I shall be falling in my duty if I do not say a work of thanks to His Excellency, the Secretary-General, who conducted our meeting so efficiently. I want also to thank all those others who remain unnamed, but worked hard for the success of this conference. Those who looked after our comforts at the residences and on the way deserve our gratitude. On behalf of us all, I thank them all most sincerely.
It is with a heart full of gratitude to Almighty God that I stand here at this time. This is indeed an occasion of unbounded joy for us in
As Heads and Leaders of a great tradition in Oriental Christendom, you have come to
In the history of the Church, beginning from the time of Emperor Constantine the Great of the
Holy Father and Brothers, your coming to this Conference has inaugurated a new era for our Churches. As you well know, the ancient Orthodox Churches had maintained their unity till the fifth century, when they underwent an unfortunate division which continues to this day. We hop and pray that God will bring together again the two traditions which thus came to be formed. Our own Oriental Orthodox Churches, however, have always stood together as branches of the same Church. At the same time historical and various other factors did not leave us free to convene common synods and Councils of all our Churches for the last many centuries. Consequently our Churches were isolated one from another, so that while being one Church in principle, we have come to be considered as many Churches.
It is against such a background that we have met in this Conference. With a view to restoring healthy and fruitful channels of communication and co-operation, we have taken here a number of important decisions. We have agreed thus, insofar as possible, we shall work together in the fields of evangelism, theological education, ecumenical action and world peace. As a result of which we shall all experience, we hope a concrete manifestation of the unity in spirit which exists among our Churches.
Even here the first thing which e need to face is the question of the nature of our calling in the one Church. We are called to bear witness to Jesus Christ, the incarnate crucified and risen Lord, and to serve our fellow human beings in His name and His spirit. So our Churches should become communities filled with spiritual dynamism to fulfil the task entrusted to us by the Lord of the Church. Here our ideal is that specified by our Lord Himself when He said, “Be ye perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect”. As we follow this great ideal, we shall experience the meaning of the heavenly peace which our Lord Jesus Christ has promised us by His words, “My peace I give unto you.” Our Lord Jesus Christ, who in His High-Priestly prayer besought that His disciples may ever remain united, will bless and sanctify our life and work together.
Besides the question of bringing our Church together again we have taken time at this Conference to discuss our future relationship with other Churches, and agreed to do all we can to help the movement towards the unity of all Christians in the fellowship of the Church. We believe that of the many bodies into which Christendom is divided, the one nearest in spiritual Kinship to our Churches is the Eastern Orthodox Church. We trust in God that He will lead both our Churches to feel urged to evaluate the positions of each other objectively in a spirit of Christian charity and mutual appreciation, so that they may, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, be restored to unity.
In giving expression to this longing, we do not imply that our concern for Christian reunion is limited to the East.
We believe that there is only one ideal for Christian reunion, and that is what our Lord has clearly specified in His Prayer. He prayed that His disciples may remain eternally united in the same way as God the Father and He Himself are one and remain united. In our thinking. Christian reunion has behind it no ulterior motive of securing earthly glory or temporal power for the Church, or even of meeting some immediate danger. WE seek reunion because our unity is the will of our Lord. He wants our Christian communities to grow with Him into His perfection. This indeed will require a broadening of our spiritual vision to see all things as Christ sees them. Our search for unity is not a partial search. We believe that God wants all men to be united with Him. From this concern we express our longing to see that peace and harmony are established in the world, and pledge that we shall work unceasingly for the peace of the world and the establishment of justice between man and man nation and nation.
May God lead all Churches in the world to realize this truth, and may the beginning of a new era for our Churches, which this Conference has initiated, help us to advance together in doing His work.
Holy Fathers and Brothers, our Conference is come to its close. To all of you, I express once again our sincere thanks. May God be with you in your journey back to your respective Churches, and may He bring us together again. We shall remember you constantly in our prayers, and may we request that you do the same for us also. Visit us whenever you can, and do keep us in touch with how you and your Churches are faring. May the blessing of Holiest Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be upon us all and our Churches, His Imperial Majesty, and the royal family, Amen.
His Holiness Vasken I, the Supreme Catholicos of Etchmidzin
(Although this was a Conference of the Heads of five Churches, the Heads and delegates of the Armenian Orthodox Church expressed their inability to participate in it fully, because of certain internal difficulties of administration which they were facing between the Supreme Catholicos of Etchmidzin and the Catholicos of the Great House of Cecilia. So at the closed sessions of the Conference the Armenian Orthodox church was represented only by observers, and neither of the Catholicos of the Armenian Orthodox Church signed the decisions at the conclusion of the conference.)
His Holiness Khoren I,Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia
(His Holiness Khoren I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, has subsequently signified his willingness to be considered a full participant of the Conference.)
The Oriental Orthodox Churches
Edited by the Interim Secretariat
Oriental Orthodox Conference