Council Leaders (1974-2004) [Check the leaders' index here(1974-Present)]
Over the years, the MECC has been gifted with remarkable leaders. We now note only those who have served as Presidents and General Secretaries. But it must be borne in mind that others have made profound contributions to the progress of this ecumenical organization, both from within its structures and as friends encouraging it from other vantage points.
The first MECC General Assembly in May, 1974, elected as its leaders the pioneer ecumenists, Rev. Dr. Hovannes Aharonian, His Eminence Metropolitan (now His Beatitude Patriarch) Ignatius IV Hazim, and His Eminence Anba Samuel. Between them, they laid strong foundations and articulated the vision for the MECCís life and witness for years to come.
Along with President Sadat of Egypt, Anba Samuel was tragically assassinated on October 3, 1981. His reconciliatory spirit and broad vision have been sorely missed in ecumenical circles since. His colleague, His Eminence Metropolitan Anba Athanasius of Bani Sweif, stepped in to fill the breach and serve out Anba Samuelís unexpired term. Along with Anba Athanasius, Dr. Aharonian, in failing health, stepped down at the General Assembly of 1985. Dr. Aharonianís death on August 18, 1986 was deeply felt in the ecumenical community.
In 1985 Patriarch Hazim was re-elected. He was joined in the presidency by His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II Sarkissian of Cilicia, a visionary man with strong ecumenical commitments, and by His Grace the Most Reverend Bishop Samir Kafity, a man with a strong record of ecumenical involvement. At the General Assembly of 1990 Catholicos Karekin, in his turn, stepped down. He was succeeded by His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas. The newly joined Catholic family was represented among the MECCís Presidents of 1990 by His Eminence Bishop Yousef el-Khoury. Sadly, Bishop Yousef died in mid-term on February 5, 1992. He was succeeded by His Beatitude Patriarch Jeane Pierre XVIII Kasparian in that same year. Patriarch Hazim and Bishop Kafity continued in their presidential responsibilities until, along with the other two serving Presidents, they stepped down in 1994 and, joining Catholicos Karekin in that dignity, were elected Honorary Presidents of the MECC. They were succeeded by four new presidents, each a remarkable individual committed to the MECCís ecumenical mission: His Holiness Pope Shenoudah III, His Holiness Patriarch Parthenios III, His Beatitude Patriarch Michel Sabbah, and Rev. Dr. Salim Sahiouny. With a great sense of sorrow the Church in the Middle East and the Council sustained the loss of His Holiness Parthenios III, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa. He died on Tuesday, the 23rd of July, 1996. In his ecclesiastical office he has been succeeded by the ecumenically active Cyprus-born Patriarch Petros VII Papapetrou, and as president of the MECC by Metropolitan Chrysanthos of Limassol, a deeply committed ecumenical figure.
At the 1999 General Assembly, Petros was elected to replace Chrysanthos as President for the Orthodox family, and Archbishop Kyrillos Boustros of Baalbek was named for the Catholic family. Patriarch Sabbah and Metropolitan Chrysanthos joined the ranks of the honorary MECC presidents. In 2003, Rev. Dr. Safwat al-Bayadi of the Evangelical Synod of the Nile was elected to replace the long-serving Rev. Dr. Sahiouny, and Bishop Dr. Youhanna Qolta was elected for the Catholic family, while Petros and Shenoudah were reconfirmed in their presidencies. Finally, in 2004 Patriarch Petros' life was tragically cut short in a helicopter crash. His successor as MECC President has not yet been named.
The General Secretaries of the Council, while fewer in number, are also servants with distinguished records: Carrying over from the Near East Council of Churches, the first General Secretary of the MECC from 1974 to 1977 was Rev. Albert Istero. He was succeeded by the ecumenical visionary, Mr. Gabriel Habib, from 1977 through 1994, a remarkable seventeen years of service. In November, 1994, Rev. Dr. Riad Jarjour, a veteran ecumenical servant in the Middle East Council of Churches, was elected General Secretary. He was replaced after two terms by Mr. Guirgis Saleh, a Coptic Orthodox theologian and professor, at the Eighth General Assembly in 2003.