With a long history of Christian heritage and ecumenical encounter, the Orthodox Academy of Crete (OAC) is now hosting the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee meeting. The academy was offered as a venue under the sponsorship of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, a founding member of the WCC.

This is the first time that the OAC has hosted a Central Committee meeting. The event is taking place from Aug. 28-Sept. 5 in Kolympari, Greece.

The WCC Central Committee is a governing body representing the 349 member churches that convenes approximately once every eighteen months.

More than 300 participants in the meeting, including the Central Committee members, observers and representatives of ecumenical organizations, WCC staff and stewards, will conduct working sessions at the conference center of the OAC.

The OAC building is located on the northwestern coast of Crete, a few meters away from the sea. Close to the historic Gonia Monastery dating from the 17th century, the academy is situated in the Chania province, a region known for its striking landscape.

“The Academy is itself a sign of ecumenical reconciliation, built in solidarity with great support and inspiration from the movement of academies in Germany,” said the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, the WCC general secretary.

As the OAC has been to the location of several discussions on environmental crisis, ecological theology and the challenges of justice and peace, the WCC general secretary pointed out that with all its facilities the academy serves as an “excellent arena” for this meeting and its reflections on the WCC 10th Assembly theme, “God of life, lead us to justice and peace”.

Recognized by the Greek government as a “religious foundation in the public interest,” the OAC has been vital in promoting dialogue as a way of thinking, living, self-reflection, interpersonal reconciliation, Christian witness and responsible relations with God’s creation.

Set up in 1968, the academy began its work with representatives of Orthodox churches, diverse Christian traditions, ecumenical organizations and educational institutions. Despite the restrictive environment of the dictatorship in that era, the OAC managed to initiate dialogue within the church and society at several levels.

Speaking on the significance of holding an ecumenical gathering, the director general of the OAC, Konstantinos S. Kenanidis said, “We humbly feel that this series of WCC meetings is an intentional acknowledgement of the Academy’s longstanding and profound involvement in the ongoing ecumenical dialogue, the most fascinating process of inter-Christian cooperation and reconciliation, and definitely one of the most significant inter-ecclesial events of the last century.”

“In its long history of ecumenical involvement, the academy has hosted important inter-Christian gatherings, bilateral and multilateral international dialogues and events,” added Kenanidis.

Expressing gratitude to the academy for hosting a major WCC meeting like the Central Committee, the WCC deputy general secretary Georges Lemopoulos said, “We are proud of the invitation extended by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and grateful for the OAC’s hospitality.”

“Holding a Central Committee meeting in Crete is the culmination of long-standing cooperation with the academy, a hopeful sign for continuing such a programmatic cooperation in the future and, above all, a tangible sign of the profound engagement of the Orthodox churches in the ecumenical movement,” he added.