HARARE–Zimbabwe–During a session of the World Council of Churches Assembly Saturday His Holiness Aram I–Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia was re-elected as executive board chairman of the international religious body. He will serve in that capacity until the year 2005.
The unprecedented vote came after more than 4000 delegates attending the assembly–unanimously voted to circumvent the organization’s by-laws and constitution–which call for term limits–and nominated Aram I for re-election. The 150-member WCC Central Executive–which conducts the election of the board unanimously elected the pontiff to the post. The Central Executive also elected to vice-chairmen from the US and Africa.
In its announcement to the Assembly–the Central Executive stated that its decision to re-elect Aram I was based on the pontiff’s reputation and versatility as a leader and his expertise in theological and ecumenical issues.
The Central Executive also cited Aram I’s outlook in confronting problems faced by the WCC and the close relations he has established with world religious leaders–as well as the popularity he enjoys by the Assembly.
Aram I was not present at this session. Following the announcement of his re-election he was greeted by loud cheers and applause by the Assembly as he entered the conference hall.
"I thank you the love and trust you have demonstrated toward me," said Aram I in accepting this unprecedented re-election.
"As you well know–the Council finds itself confronted with new challenges in the changing world. I will continue my commitment to the World Council of Churches and the ecumenical movement–with renewed vigor and belief," concluded Aram I.
The chairmanship of the Central and Executive Board is the highest position of the World Council of Churches. Aram I was first elected to that position in 1991–in the council’s seventh assembly convened in Camberra–Australia–becoming the first Orthodox church leader to assume that position.
Aram I also becomes the first WCC chairman to be re-elected for a second term.
The WCC Assembly was scheduled to officially conclude Tuesday–with Aram I making the closing remarks.