The World Council of Churches (WCC) is deeply mourning the loss of Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima, vice moderator of the WCC central committee.
Dr Agnes Abuom, WCC central committee moderator, extended condolences to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the wider ecumenical family, “He was known for his pastoral care, collegiality, spirituality and ecumenical commitment,” said Abuom in her condolence message. “He led a principled life devoted to promote ecumenism, unity, and ecumenical leadership development,” Abuom added. “ I was serving with him eight years and eight months, and leading the council to the next assembly. I can’t hardly understand that he is not with us in Karlsruhe.”
“When we needed him, he was there, ready to serve the ecumenical movement. May his soul rest in peace,” concluded Abuom.
Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, vice moderator of the WCC central committee said that, from her very first meeting with the WCC central committee in Geneva, Metropolitan Gennadios welcomed her and her husband with grace. “He taught me so much because his knowledge and experience with the WCC had been so extensive,” she said. “We had great teamwork as the leadership of the central committee and we lived the WCC fellowship.”
Swenson added: “I can’t imagine how we go forward without him physically present. We only know that, absent from the body, he is present with the Lord.”
WCC acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca extended condolences to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, his friends and family, who will miss him in so many ways. “We will miss his strong, ecumenical voice, and his willingness to contribute always toward striving for unity,” said Sauca. “We deeply appreciate his years of hard work and strong commitment to the ethos of consensus decision-making.”
Sauca said he will never forget the metropolitan’s many well-formulated messages of support for the WCC’s work for unity, for justice and peace, which ranged so widely and touched so many people especially the young generation across the world.
Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima was also moderator of the Assembly Planning Committee, as well as the Permanent Committee on Consensus. He served as moderator of the Worship Committee during WCC 9th Assembly in Porto Alegre and the WCC 10th Assembly in Busan.
His lifetime of support for the WCC began when he first served as a steward at the WCC 4th Assembly in Uppsala in 1968. He wrote more than 400 theological studies, books, articles and works in various Greek and foreign journals on Orthodox Theology and universal content, in various languages.
A professor of Orthodox theology and canon law in various universities, he was a vice-moderator of the WCC’s Faith and Order Commission from 1998-2006. He served as co-president of the Joint International Theological Dialogue between Orthodox and Lutheran, co-secretary and member of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, co-chairman of the Orthodox and Methodist and Baptist theological preparatory committees.
Metropolitan Gennadios served as a member of the presidium and of the governing board of the Conference of European Churches. He was a member of the WCC executive and central committees since 2002. From 1983-93, he was a staff member of the WCC’s Faith and Order secretariat in Geneva, and he served as vice-moderator of the WCC Faith and Order Commission since 2015.
In 2015, he was honoured with the title of “Doctor honoris causa” from the University of Athens, Greece. The decision to grant Gennadios an honorary doctorate was taken upon recommendation from the Department of Theology of the Faculty of Theology and through unanimous agreement of the governing body of the National and Capodistrian University of Athens, the oldest institution for higher education in modern Greece.
In 2012, he was awarded an honorary fellowship by the Orthodox Academy of Crete in recognition of his work for peace, dialogue and Christian witness.
In 2010, he was awarded a doctor honoris causa degree by the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, USA.
The funeral will take place in Greece, followed by memorial services with dates to be determined.
In one of his most recent public appearances, Metropolitan Gennadios said WCC member churches had responded positively to the invitation to name delegates for the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe.
He said he hoped the Karlsruhe assembly would remind the churches of their commitment to continue their work for visible unity and Christian fellowship, a pilgrimage from which no one would be excluded.