The visit of the Middle East Council of Churches to Egypt
Under the title “Give us to bear, fruit of the Holy Spirit” and in context with MECC’s visit to the Church leaders of the Middle East, the General Secretary Dr. Souraya Bechealany underwent a series of visitations to Egyptian Church leaders from the 15th to 18th of December. She was accompanied by Father Gaby Hachem head of the Theological and Ecumenical Affairs Department, and Mrs. Huguette Salameh the head of the Communication Department. The team was also joined by Former Secretary General of the Middle East Council of Churches, Gerges Saleh.
As her first visit, she convened with His Beatitude Patriarch Ibrahim Ishaq the Patriarch of Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, at the headquarters. The Council’s projects and the activities of its departments were discussed at the meeting. Judging on the current circumstances in the Middle East, His Beatitude stressed on the importance of the ecumenical role of the Council and enhancing cooperation between MECC and the Churches in Egypt.
The second destination was in Cairo to visit His Beatitude Theodore II, Patriarch of Alexandria and all of Africa for the Greek Orthodox, at the headquarters of the Patriarchate in Cairo. Following the warm greeting from His Beatitude, the Secretary General presented the Council’s projects and programs, particularly its theological and ecumenical ones. From his part, His Beatitude affirmed his support for the Council and declared the resources of the headquarters of the new Patriarchate in Alexandria at the disposal of the Council and its activities.
The first day ended with a meeting with a group of Egyptian journalists at the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Center in the presence of Archbishop Jeremiah the General Bishop of the Center, who received the Secretary General and the accompanying delegation with a warm welcome: “For the first time there is an open dialogue with Egyptian journalists to introduce the MECC’s endeavors in deepening Islamic-Christian dialogue and serving the Middle Eastern society.”
He added: “The Council has an insight and a vision for the future of the Islamic-Christian dialogue. The Council, under the leadership of Dr. Souraya Bechealany, is making a great effort to expand in Syria and Iraq, in terms of education, health and treatment services. I hope that this effort will be good for this region.”
The day after, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II received the delegation of the Council of Churches of the Middle East at the papal headquarters in the Cathedral of St. Mark in Abbassia, Cairo. The Coptic Church, which lives the spirit of renewed resurrection throughout the year, supports and respects the Ecumenical role of the Council since its establishment. His Beatitude later continued to inform the Secretary General of the appointment of His Eminence Bishop Thomas as the Council’s new representative of the Coptic Orthodox Church instead of the late His Holiness Bishop Bishoy.
From her part, Dr. Souraya Bechealany presented the numerous projects and programs that MECC’s departments are working on. They included the re-launch of the Association of Faculties of theology in the Middle East (ATIME), the reopening of the Middle East Council of Churches in Egypt, and the coordination mechanisms with the Council of Churches of Egypt and its Secretary General.
His Holiness also blessed the idea of organizing an official visit to the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar during the upcoming Secretary General’s visit to Egypt and the reopening of the office of the Middle East Council of Churches in Egypt.
On the third day, the Secretary General of the Council of Churches of the Middle East, Dr. Souraya Bechealany, as part of her protocol visits, convened with Bishop Mounir Hanna, head of the Anglican Church in Egypt and the rest of Africa at his headquarters in Cairo. She then visited the Council’s office in Cairo, where she concluded her visits to Egypt in a meeting with the President of the Synod of the Evangelical Church in Egypt Revenant Andria Zaki Stefanos at his headquarters in Cairo. He stressed on the importance of the role of the Council in ecumenical relations, in the Christian faith and in the service of its people, the Church and Egypt. He stated: “Each Church has its own norms and regulations and always aims to work on building and promoting the spirit of openness and co-existence under peace and love.”