Goodwill visit to the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia and the Middle East Council of Churches

Bishop Dr. Harald Rein visited His Holiness Aram I in Lebanon from 17 to 21 November 2016. He was accompanied by Dr. Abel Manoukian (Secretary of the Swiss Council of Religions and an Armenian priest) and Professor Urs von Arx (theological advisor).

A new type of dialogue

At our meetings with Catholicos Aram I at his residence in Antelias, we discussed how to achieve closer contact between the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht. To date, the focus has been more on the relationship with the Eastern Orthodox (Slavic) Churches. New points of contact have emerged with the Oriental Orthodox Churches as a result of migration and globalisation. Bilateral dialogues (e.g. Eastern Orthodox–Old Catholic, Eastern Orthodox–Oriental Orthodox, Anglican–Eastern Orthodox, Anglican–Oriental Orthodox) have already resulted in a large number of theological texts. For the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Old Catholic Churches, a new approach is therefore suggested: three Old Catholic and three Armenian theologians work together to produce consensus texts on current ethical issues. A preparation team decides on which issues to cover. The project still needs to be approved by the relevant bodies, such as the International Bishops’ Conference.

Another feature of the meeting in Lebanon was the opportunity to get to know each Church better. Professor Urs von Arx gave a lecture at the Armenian Church’s theological college in Bikfaya. I led prayers at the memorial chapel for the victims of the Armenian genocide, visited the genocide museum and a former orphanage, and attended a special service to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the enthronement of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I.

Aid on the ground

In my capacity as the President of the Swiss National Ecumenical Council and on behalf of our aid organization ‘Partner sein’, I also visited the Middle East Council of Churches in Beirut. Our delegation was welcomed by the Director, Tarek Adbel Sater, and the Deputy Director, Samer Laham. We discussed how best to help Christians in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. The answer was clear: With direct involvement at the local level and with international political pressure from the West to ensure that Christians can remain in their home countries and do not have to flee. Unfortunately, many people in Europe have yet to understand this. There is a danger that Christians from the Middle East will be driven out by Muslims.


Bishop Harald Rein


Photo 1: © ; Bishop Harald Rein, Catholicos Aram I, Prof. Urs von Arx

Photo 2: © Harald Rein; Visiting the Middle East Council of Churches


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