8th assembly/50th anniversary

Together on the Way
7.3. Karekin I: Catholicos of All Armenians

Beloved brothers and sisters,

In Christian love and fellowship I greet you all as you are assembled in Harare, Zimbabwe, and are engaged in the deliberations of the eighth assembly of the World Council of Churches.

I personally regret that I will not be able to be with you, for purely health reasons. The delegation of our Armenian Church will certainly participate actively in all the work of the assembly.

Having personally attended four assemblies -- in New Delhi, Uppsala, Nairobi and Vancouver -- I know how significant is the task of the assembly not only for the mandate and the ongoing work of the WCC, but indeed for the life of the member churches. This is not only a time of reviewing the work accomplished by the WCC since the Canberra assembly; rather, it is a golden opportunity to "read the signs of the times", seeing our present-day predicament in pan-Christian perspective and in the spirit of partnership and fellowship.

I am aware of the complex issues you are facing in this assembly. One must admit that in all assemblies held so far, there have been difficult moments and acute problems. My experience has shown that the fellowship, our staying together, struggling to resolve them together in spite of divergences, has always prevailed. It could not be otherwise because fellowship is God's gift to us that we have to cherish, to enrich, and to promote in His grace on our pilgrimage to visible unity. Problems have always arisen and have often disturbed the life of the church from the very beginning of the apostolic age. Yet the church has always overcome them when it has approached them with that strongest "weapon" of the Holy Spirit, in other words the fellowship, the sense of belonging to the same Lord, to the same gospel and to the same mission.

Our common ecumenical commitment through the World Council of Churches has already reached its 50th anniversary: half a century of such tremendous witness that, to my understanding, this 20th century, taken as a whole and in spite of some recent trends of re-emergence of confessionalism, can justly be described as "the ecumenical century". On this jubilee occasion we have humbly to recognize that impact-making events took place which enriched our common Christian history. Usually in WCC circles we have been self-critical; we have often been inclined to see the dark side. What about the positive areas?

As we prepare to close this second millennium, let us with this assembly take courage from Him to whom we turn to rejoice in peace. "Turning to God" means opening up to fellowship and walking hand in hand in this journey, our pilgrimage on earth, that will take us to the third millennium and to the ages of ages.

It is with this state of mind and heart that I, as the head of one member church of the WCC, wish you the very best in your noble and God-pleasing task.

With love and prayers,

Karekin I, Catholicos of All Armenians
December 1998

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