World Council of Churches - News Release
Contact: + 41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363

For immediate release: 21 September 2005

WCC official visit to Ethiopia

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the largest and oldest church on the African continent, is hosting an international ecumenical delegation headed by World Council of Churches' (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, 24-30 September 2005.

"Ethiopians have been part of the church from the very beginning, and Ethiopia is a country with a profound spiritual ancestry," underlines Kobia. "The ancient church and the culture of Ethiopia continue to offer a source of identity and dignity for many Africans and to humankind. Ethiopia is going through challenging and trying times, and the WCC desires to be with the church and the people in times of difficulty as well as joy."

The WCC delegation is invited to Ethiopia by H.H. Patriarch Abune Paulos, head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church since 1992. With an estimated 38 million members, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is one of the largest national churches in the world, and was a founding member of the WCC in 1948.

Along with meetings with Ethiopian Orthodox officials and visits to church holy sites and several social and educational initiatives, the WCC delegation will meet with leaders of the second WCC member church in the country, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, and will hold talks with Ethiopian political leaders and representatives of regional organizations.

The visit coincides with the traditional "meskel" religious festival commemorating the finding of the True Cross in Jerusalem, which is one of the landmark events in Ethiopian culture and church life.

Together with the WCC general secretary, the WCC delegation will include six other church representatives and staff members: Dr Agnes Abuom, WCC president from Africa, Kenya; Bishop Nareg Alemezian, Armenian Apostolic Church (Cilicia), Lebanon; Rev. Ingrid Vad Nilsen, Norway; Mr Nicholas Otieno, Kenya; Mr Melaku Kifle, and Rev. Dr André Karamaga, WCC staff.

All details of the programme are subject to change. A press conference will be held in Addis Ababa on Friday 30 September.
Full details will be available from the Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate.

The provisional programme of the visit will include:
Sunday 25 September: Church service and audience with H.H. Patriarch Abune Paulos in Addis Ababa.
Monday 26 September: Meeting with leaders of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus.
Tuesday 27 September: Visit to Ethiopian Orthodox monastery and church social and educational projects.
Wednesday 28 September: Presentation and discussion on the ecumenical movement with Ethiopian Orthodox leaders.
Thursday 29 September: Meeting with the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Meeting at the Economic Commission for Africa.
Friday 30 September: Meeting at the African Union. Press conference.

Media contact in Ethiopia: Mr Melaku Kifle, mobile: +41 79 205 8413

Additional information: Juan Michel,+41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, from the [Lutheran] Church of Norway. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.