Eastern Orthodox Churches hold 14th meeting in Cairo, call for unity to address regional challenges

CAIRO — In the second week of May, the fourteenth meeting of the Heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches in the Middle East was held at the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria headquarters at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo. Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, Pope Tawadros II welcomed Syriac Orthodox Patriach Mor Ignatius Aphrem II and Armenian Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia Aram I.

The gathering focused on pressing issues facing the churches and their congregations. Key discussions centered on the enduring Christian presence in the Middle East, emphasizing the resilience of the community amidst ongoing challenges. The attendees expressed their collective concern over global conflicts, particularly those in the region, and condemned all forms of violence. They urged the international community to take decisive action to end the war in Gaza.

The meeting also highlighted the unresolved fate of Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Holeb (Aleppo) Youhanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Boulos Yaziji, who were kidnapped from April 2013 in Holeb, Syria. Church leaders reiterated their prayers and called for continued efforts to uncover their whereabouts.

A significant portion of the discussions was dedicated to the importance of restoring unity between the Orthodox Churches. The attendees voiced a strong desire to reactivate dialogue, with plans for a preparatory committee meeting to be held in Cairo this September.

In an effort to enhance cooperation among the Churches, two subcommittees were established, focusing on theological and youth institutes. These subcommittees will operate under the supervision of the permanent committee, ensuring more organized collaboration.

The Church leaders also advocated for a unified date for Easter celebrations, urging Orthodox Churches, the Vatican, the World Council of Churches, and the Middle East Council of Churches to reconsider this matter for greater ecclesiastical harmony.

Additionally, the meeting reviewed a report on the Syriac Orthodox Church’s situation in India, discussing efforts by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate to foster rapprochement and find solutions to ongoing issues.