Jerusalem, 28th – 29th January 2011
The Syrian Orthodox Church hosted the ecumenical meeting of Friday 28th January. It is surprising how the prayer meetings for Christian Unity are so deeply heartfelt by the many different Christianities present in Jerusalem, by the religious but also by the lay faithful, especially of the host Church. The Syrian Church was no exception, offering truly wonderful hospitality. So many people from the different Christian rites came to the church which, according to tradition, is built on St. Mark’s house that not everybody could fit inside.
The Archbishop Sewerios M. Murar led the prayer and in his homily he underlined how "Nothing is more important than when friends get together for the noble purpose of praying for the unity of Churches and to overcome the separation the demon wanted through fanatics and the ignorant". There was a strong invitation of “be like children, as Jesus asked us”. The Archbishop then continued by saying that only if we become like children, with their simplicity, their forgiveness and their amenability to teaching can we hope that God listens to our prayers of unity and really become a universal and apostolic Church, a ship for the salvation of the nations and a light amongst the people.
The ecumenical prayer meeting on 29th January at the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was very colourful and with “ethnic” accents: a piece of Africa in Jerusalem. The beautiful circular church in the “Amharic” tradition is entered, according to the custom of the Tewahedo Church (this is it is self-defined: “the church of the union”) without shoes. Light blue, white and pink frame the images and sacred decorations which have a unique African-Oriental flavour.
The principal cloister stands in the centre of the church, where all the functions are held. The prayer meeting was led with the Ethiopian Orthodox ritual in the Gheez language by the Archbishop Abba Mathias with the characteristic vocalized chanting and with the intervention in other languages by the other confessions. The Ethiopian Orthodox church has very ancient origins and is the only autonomous African Church.
It was St. Frumentius who evangelized Ethiopia: from a slave he became an influential politician and founded the Ethiopian Church under the Coptic Patriarchate of Alexandria, Egypt, guided by the patriarch of the time, St. Athanasius. Recently, in 1959, the Ethiopian Church became an autonomous Patriarchate with its seat in Addis Ababa.
At the end of the celebration, the moment of conviviality which marks every ecumenical meeting was enhanced by Ethiopian singing and dancing to the rhythm of the drum with children and adults in their typical costumes. The performance gladdened the hearts of all those present. There are truly many charismas of Christianity and diversity can become richness, more than a reason for division, in the respect of all otherness. What we can experience at the moment in Jerusalem is concrete evidence of this and for the faithful, coming together in the name of Jesus, is always a reason for great joy.