Conference of the Oriental Orthodox Churches (COOC)
CONFERENCE OF THE HEADS OF ORIENTAL ORTHODOX CHURCHES
We, the Heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, assembled with our delegations in the conference, solemnly declare His Imperial Majesty Haile Sellassie I Emperor of Ethiopia as the “Defender of the Faith.”
CONFERENCE OF THE HEADS OF ORIENTAL ORTHODOX CHURCHES
We, the Heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, assembled with our Delegations in Conference, at the successful conclusion of our sessions, are happy to pay tribute to His Imperial Majesty Haile Sellassie I, whose initiative and foresight made this meeting possible.
In this His Imperial Majesty follows the tradition of other great and inspired rulers who have played their appointed part in Christendom and have deserved the title of Defenders of the Faith.
The conference expresses its gratitude to His Imperial Majesty and to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church for the work and efforts which have gone into the arrangements for this Conference. It thanks the Secretariat with its Head, the distinguished Secretary General, for the excellent arrangements at this Conference.
The members of the Conference have been extremely happy to visit the beautiful land of Ethiopia and to know its faithful and devoted people.
We raise our thanks to Almighty God for this meeting in love and brotherhood. We are confident that, with the blessing of Divine Providence, this meeting will be followed by others which will enlarge and strengthen the foundations so happily laid, for the good of our Churches and of Christendom.
CONFERENCE OF THE HEADS OF ORIENTAL ORTHODOX CHURCHES
We, the Heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, assembled with our Delegation in Conference, wish to express our deep feelings of gratitude and appreciation for all those who have shared in helping the initiative of His Imperial Majesty to come into existence.
To those who have carried the burden of long preparation through correspondence and delegations who visited our churches more than once. To those who arranged the facilities to make our stay so happy and pleasant.
Special tribute is rendered to the silent workers, the Ethiopian theologians and young people who worked in the translation, clerical work, transportation and all Secretariat, under the wise guidance and patience of the Secretary General, Ato Abebe Retta.
We thank the Clergy including the Debtera (singers) in the Churches in which we worshipped together. We appreciate the hard work of the two lady secretaries who came especially from Geneva to help us in recording the minutes. We also extend our gratitude to the World Council of Churches who graciously made them available to us.
CONCLUDING SPEECH OF HIS IMPERIAL MAJESTY TO THE CONFERENCE OF HEADS OF ORIENTAL ORTHODOX CHURCHES
Venerable and Holy Fathers,
In listening to the profound spiritual message conveyed by your closing addresses and appreciating the happy outcome of your sustained efforts, our heart has been touched by profound gladness. It should, therefore be clear to the whole world from the result of your work that your Holiness have guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit to accomplish your task in love and unity.
The great common tasks accomplished by this Conference in unison bestowed on the true faith and true order of the Oriental Orthodox Church the admiration of the whole world.
As Solomon says, physical distance can not be a barrier to love. Likewise, the distances among your respective countries have been abolished by proximity of your hearts. You have thus been able to speak with a single tongue and think with a single mind. We thank Almighty God for enabling us to witness the realization of our dream in the successful outcome of this historical Conference.
We are therefore happy to express to you our readiness, fortified by the results of this Conference, to invite you and the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and also other churches at the late date. We ardently hope that we shall meet once again in the not distance future.
As we stated at the inauguration of this Conference, to meet together, to take council with one another, and to act in mutual cooperation, has proved a most fruitful method both in the secular and spiritual fields. Henceforth the way is open for you to follow this fruitful path and to this end, our help and assistance will always be forthcoming since we support your efforts and ideas out of an unshakable conviction that it is our spiritual duty to do so.
We are gratified in particular to note that the work of this Conference has been concerned purely with religious spiritual matters, free from extraneous political considerations. This is only fitting and proper, for the church, as a symbol of peace, must follow the path of peace in all parts of the world. In this connection we are glad to note that our evangelistic mission in the world has received due emphasis in your deliberations, together with the recognition of the Christian duty to pray for the rights o man and peace in the world. For world peace can only be made abiding by the grace of God, through the prayer of the Holy Fathers. The truth of this cardinal fact is evident to all mankind.
We ardently hope that Almighty God shall bless the implementation of your important resolutions and decisions, just as He made possible the successful convening and conclusion of this historic Conference.
REPLY OF H.H. KYRILLOS VI POPE OF ALEXANDRIA AND PATRIARCH OF THE SEE OF ST. MARK
Your Imperial Majesty,
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.)
Now that this prophecy has come true, because we see you rejoicing in the strength of the Lord and in His salvation it is meet for us to say: The Lord has glorified His work in us and we have rejoiced. Ethiopia has heard and she is happy and the peoples of Orthodoxy have rejoiced. In your modesty, the Lord has granted you glory and has given strength to Orthodoxy with you.
In truth we the Heads of Oriental Orthodox Churches happily assembled here would not have brought about this meeting. God has singled you to bring this service to Orthodox peoples. For this and for all your previous services, you have deserved to be called the Defender of the Faith in the twentieth century.
As Faith came to Ethiopia through the see of St. Mark, so have you, by the grace of God, been able to bring this service not only to the see of St. Mark but to all the Oriental orthodox Churches. I remarked this Conference that the Lord has blessed Ethiopia from olden times. The Nile river flows down from her mountains to bring life to millions of human beings, and from this Conference held on the mountains of Ethiopia will flow the inspiration for the spiritual strengthening of Orthodox peoples. As you upheld the word of the Lord in the past, so will the Lord uphold you.
Beloved brother Patriarchs, Bishops and other members of the orthodox Clergy assembled in this Hall.
God has in His Divine Providence permitted that this Meeting of ours should take place, so that our hearts may be bound in the unity of Spirit which is love. We hope that this meeting will be followed by many other meetings and we are confident that Divine Providence will uphold the spiritual advancement of our Orthodox Churches by the means of this unity and these sacred ties. As for the decisions which the Conference has unanimously approved, God will help us to implement them in order that they should bring forth their fruit.
Your Imperial Majesty, Brothers,
For myself, I should praise the Lord who has granted me – through your prayer- strength so that I may join you and enjoy your holy company. May God Almighty give the world the blessing of peace and security and may He preserve our countries and our governments and their heads. May God Almighty preserve our beloved Orthodox brother Emperor Haile Sellassie I and the Crown Prince and the other members of the Imperial Family. We ask him to preserve the life of our brothers the Patriarchs of Orthodoxy and to glorify His name in their persons. We ask Him to bring health to our dear brother Anba Basilios, Patriarch-Catholicos of Ethiopia, to bless the Bishops, clergy, people of Ethiopia and the churches and peoples of Orthodoxy.
REPLY OF H.H. MORAN MAR IGNATIUS YACUB III
Your Imperial Majesty, Holy Fathers and Brothers, beloved Clergy and people
Today is a day of rejoicing and thanksgiving. We rejoice as we were privileged to meet as members of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, sharing the common faith and communion after centuries of isolation, and also because God has enabled us all to meet in one mind and heart, and discuss with frankness matters of common concern in an atmosphere of brotherly love, and decide to take steps not only to establish closer contacts with each other and better understanding with churches, but also we decided to take steps to meet the challenges of the changing times, thus enabling our churches both as a group and severally better instruments in the hands of God for the extension of His Kingdom.
All this would not have been possible but for the fact that His Imperial Majesty Haile Sellassie I, Defender of the Faith, had not shown courage, faith, wisdom and vision to bring us together. This had not been an easy task. Apart from the tremendous cost and work involved in the convening of such a Conference, the arrangements, which could never be excelled, His Majesty’s guidance in this Conference, His deep-rooted Christian faith, knowledge, devotion and humility had been a source of inspiration to us all. We are proud of Him and His country. We have always prayed for Him as our one and only Orthodox King, and we shall continue to pray for Him and His people. May He Live for many more long years to come. May He be blessed to help to execute the decisions of this first Conference as Constantine for the Council of Nicea.
The great hospitality and love shown by His Holiness the Patriarch of Ethiopia, the Archbishops, bishops, clergy and the faithful of this great country has far excelled even our wildest imaginations. We pray for the restoration to health of His Holiness Patriarch Basilios. May the Almighty bless all the leaders and the people of both this great church and this great country.
Our Churches have gone through in the past great difficulties and trials and there were real moments of darkness. Many of Our Churches had to fight for their very existence. But through it all our fathers maintained undefiled the faith that had handed to them. God will never forsake His Church. He said “Lo, I am with you always”.
This Conference surely is a sign of this promise. Holy Spirit was present throughout, and His hand of guidance was visible in our midst. As we go back to our respective lands, may we take back this spirit of Addis Ababa with us. We are determined that the forward steps we have taken in the many-sided activities of the Church will never be reversed. We return with confidence that from now on the Oriental Orthodox Churches are not more the isolated pockets which shared a common heritage and faith, but a united and living organism, determined to work together for the glory of God.
With thankful hearts and penitent sprit, may we pray the Almighty to fulfil in and through us purpose He has for us.
REPLY OF H.M MORAN MAR BASELIOS AUGEN I CATHOLICOS OF THE EAST
Your Imperial Majesty, Holy Fathers, Eminent Brothers, Clergy and People
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 Israel. When he saw the child Jesus, he knew that salvation had come to his people. His heart was filled with joy and he sang to the glory of God.
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 India and the interest He took in the Church in India. I am confident that I am voicing the thought of all of us when I speak of His Imperial Majesty as the Defender of the Orthodox Faith. In the name of us all, I place on recorded our grateful thanks to His Imperial Majesty. May God bless Him and the Imperial family.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Imperial Ethiopian Government have made our stay in Ethiopia a very happy experience, and we are all grateful to them. The ties that bind the Ethiopian Orthodox Church with our church in India are very ancient. When the invitation to this conference came, my old age and physical infirmity made me hesitate. But my life-long desire to renew contact with this ancient sister-Church encouraged me to undertake this long journey from far-off India. I am now glad that I came. At the celebration of Epiphany the other day, we saw something of the special traditions that this Church developed over the centuries. The singing of the Debteras thrilled all of us. We sister-Churches have much to learn from Ethiopia. The only thing that made me sad was that His Holiness Abuna Basilios, the Patriarch, was not able to be with us in the meetings. We shall al pray for His Holiness’s health.
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.
Addis Ababa is a city blessed by God. The spirit of unity and brotherhood which we experienced here will go forth from this city to all the lands from which we came. In this blessed city, we have gained a new vision of the glorious vocation of the Church. The Bride of Christ is arrayed in the glory of her Bridegroom, and we rejoice. We sing with the Prophet Isaiah “Enlarge the place of the tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy slakes; for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited:. (Isa. 54: 2-3)
REPLY OF HIS BEATITUDE ABUNA THEOPHILOS ACTING PATRIARCH OF ETHIOPIA & ARCHBISHOP OF HARAR
Holy Fathers and Brothers in Christ,
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 Ethiopia and for me personally the happiest moment In my life. Ethiopia is blessed by your visit, and will remember this glorious event for many long years to come. So it is my most pleasant duty and privilege to express, on behalf of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and of my own humble self, the gratification we all enjoy on this auspicious occasion.
As Heads and Leaders of a great tradition in Oriental Christendom, you have come to Ethiopia representing oldest Churches in the world. We are most grateful to each and every one of you for your kindness in visiting us and graciously taking part in this historic conference.
Ethiopia as an Orthodox Christian country is readily accessible to any of you at any time, and we would like you to take advantage of this situation and visit us whenever you can. We are able to confidently affirm this because our Emperor is a most devout member and protector of the Church, because His Imperial Majesty Haile Sellassie I and the royal family are noted both in Ethiopia and in the outside world for their love of the Church. As you are well aware, the one man whose far-sighted vision and a determined effort made the convocation of this Conference possible is His Imperial Majesty.
In the history of the Church, beginning from the time of Emperor Constantine the Great of the Roman Empire in the fourth century, there have been many faithful Emperors and rulers of Kingdoms who have taken the imitative in convening Councils and Synods of the Church. His Majesty stands in the tradition of those great men, and the convocation of this Conference marks the crowning act or His illustrious service to the cause of the Church. It is therefore, our most pleasant duty to thank him for what he has done, to convey to him the Church’s blessings and pray for his long and peaceful life and prosperous reign.
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 the 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 idea, 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 be sought 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 has 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.
The Oriental Orthodox Churches Addis Ababa Conference January 1965
Edited by the Interim Secretariat
Oriental Orthodox Conference
Addis Ababa – August, 1965