“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20
The Assyrian Church of the East in Lebanon has hosted an ecumenical celebration marking the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The event, on 26 January 2014, was held at St George Cathedral of the Assyrian Church of the East in the Beirut suburb of Sed el-Bouchriyeh.
The ecumenical gathering, the largest of its kind ever held in Lebanon, saw representatives of 10 churches come together to celebrate the important event.
These churches were:
– Antiochian Orthodox Church – Armenian Orthodox Church – Assyrian Church of the East – Chaldean Catholic Church – Coptic Orthodox Church – Maronite Catholic Church – Melkite Catholic Church – National Evangelical Church of Lebanon – Syriac Catholic Church – Syrian Orthodox Church
Senior prelates and clergy from the noted churches were represented at the event.
The ecumenical prayer event commenced with the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in Arabic, followed by an address from The Rev’d Fr Michel Jalakh, Secretary-General of the Middle East Council of Churches.
The Secretary-General welcomed all prelates and distinguished guests present stressing that the spirit of ecumenism should be the driver of relations between the churches that they may live together in unity. He stressed that each church has its own liturgical and theological tradition and cultural legacy. This, said The Rev’d Fr Michel Jalakh, is a symbol of the richness of the Church of Christ with ecumenical unity not meaning each church should abandon its own historical legacy.
The Vatican’s Apostolic Nuncio, His Excellency Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia then addressed the gathering offering prayers in the French language.
The keynote address of the function was delivered by His Grace Mar Narsai Benjamin, Bishop of Iran of the Assyrian Church of the East visiting from his Diocesan See in Tehran. In his remarks, His Grace expressed the openness of the Assyrian Church of the East to constructive dialogue with its sister churches. His Grace noted that the ecumenical gathering was a visible reflection of the desire of the Assyrian Church of the East to pursue fruitful and sincere relations with all churches, without exception.
The Very Rev’d Archdeacon Emmanuel Youkhana of the Assyrian Church of the East then interpreted the address of the Bishop of Iran to Arabic.
Following the formal addresses at the beginning of the programme, vespers were offered according to the rite of the Assyrian Church of the East. The Gospel was read in the Greek, Armenian, Arabic and Assyrian languages.
Following the evening prayers, hymns were sung in several languages by a ‘unity choir’ composed of faithful from 9 churches.
At the end of the programme His Beatitude Mor Ignatius Joseph III Younan, Patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church offered the final blessing.
Following the conclusion of the gathering, the prelates proceeded to the Archbishopric of the Assyrian Church of the East where His Beatitude the Patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church offered his felicitations and thanks to the Assyrian Church of the East and the organising committee for the success of the ecumenical event.
The Vatican’s Apostolic Nuncio, His Excellency Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia then addressed those present and noted that he was pleased and honoured to be the only western prelate participating in the Eastern gathering. He further expressed his joy that all the sister churches of the East were gathered in an atmosphere of love, unity and respect which are at the roots of the Christian faith.
The event was covered by the Lebanese broadcasting services Tele Lumiere and Noursat.