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Anastasios calls for Christian action in transformation of world


Rev. Samuel Kobia and H.B. Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana
Paulino Menezes/WCC


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Since the World Council of Churches' 9th Assembly is taking place in Latin America, the issue of poverty assumes absolute priority for all who worship and follow Jesus.


That was the message Archishop Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania brought to nearly 700 delegates and thousands of others present during opening prayer at the WCC Assembly, Porto Alegre, Brazil, on 14 February.


The prayer service opened with the energetic singing of a choir composed of members of local congregations, and was built around the prayer chosen as the 9th Assembly's theme: "God, in your grace, transform the world".


Participants responded warmly to the Latin American-style music of the evening, which was augmented by contributions from other traditions and cultures. Up to a dozen languages were heard as the huge and colourful tent resounded to voices lifted in praise.


During the service, gifts of grace were received from several regions of the world: a stone from Turkana, the cradle of humanity, sugar cane from the Caribbean, a reindeer calf skin from Europe, fruit and a Salvadorean cross from Latin America, a Coptic icon from the Middle East, grain from North America, a woven mat, stick chart and bowl from the Pacific.


Cries of the world were heard through music, visual symbols and silence, and a common meal followed Bible readings, a litany of commitment and words of promise and hope.


Anastasios, the primate of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania and renowned theologian and ecumenical leader, spoke on the Assembly theme and God's transformative intervention into human history.


He said that a direct consequence of God's incarnation was that all who belonged to God had "both the privilege and the obligation to share actively in the transformation of the world".


He spoke of the need for people to transform themselves, with the grace of God becoming an inexhaustible source of action: for service, creative struggle for healing and reconciliation, and the spreading of the gospel for the transformation of all.


"In the face of all the poor - the hungry, estranged, and refugees," he said, "we are obliged to discern the face of Jesus."


Anastasios, who has been active in promoting efforts for peace and reconciliation in the Balkans and who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, then lamented how, on our planet, peace continues to be injured on a daily basis.


He said, "Let us make a firm decision to struggle, with the power of the Holy Spirit, to overcome violence wherever we possibly can: in our family and society, as well as in the political and international community."


He concluded, "With our gaze firmly set on Christ, our lord, who is the absolute truth, the boundless beauty and the incarnate love of God in the world, let us contribute, to the best of our ability, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, to the transformation of the world."


The text of the sermon is available on the WCC Assembly website underwww.wcc-assembly.info/en/theme-issues/assembly-documents/sermons/anastasios-address.html


Assembly website:www.wcc-assembly.info