OF HIS ALL HOLINESS ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH B A R T H O L O M E W
TO THE PLENARY ASSEMBLY OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
(Brussels, September 24, 2008)
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Your Excellency Mr President of the European Parliament,
Your Excellencies, Honorable Members of the European Parliament,
First and foremost, we convey to you salutations from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, based for many many centuries in what is today Istanbul – greetings replete with esteem and respect. In particular, we express our gratitude to an old friend of ours, His Excellency Hans-Gert Pöttering, President of the European Parliament. We likewise express our sincerest appreciation for the extraordinary honor to address the Plenary of the European Parliament, especially on this occasion that commemorates the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue.
As a purely spiritual institution, our Ecumenical Patriarchate embraces a truly global apostolate that strives to raise and broaden the consciousness of the human family – to bring understanding that we are all dwelling in the same house. At its most basic sense, this is the meaning of the word "ecumenical" – for the "oikoumene" is the inhabited world – the earth understood as a house in which all peoples, kindreds, tribes and languages dwell.
As is well known, the origins of our religious institution lie at the core of the Axial Age, deep in the history of the Christian Faith – with the earliest followers of Jesus Christ. Inasmuch as our See – our institutional center – shared the center and capital of the Christian Roman Empire, it became known as "ecumenical," with certain privileges and responsibilities that it holds to this day. One of its chief responsibilities was for bringing the redemptive message of the Gospel to the world outside the Roman Empire. In the days before the exploratory age, most civilizations held such a bicameral view of the world as being "within" and "without." The world was divided into two sectors: a hemisphere of civilization and a hemisphere of barbarism. In this history, we behold the grievous consequences of the alienation of human persons from one another.
Today, when we have the technological means to transcend the horizon of our own cultural self-awareness, we nevertheless continue to witness the terrible effects of human fragmentation. Tribalism, fundamentalism, and phyletism – which is extreme nationalism without regard to the rights of the other – all these contribute to the ongoing list of atrocities that give pause to our claims of being civilized in the first place.
And yet, even with tides of trade, migrations and expansions of peoples, religious upheavals and revivals, and great geopolitical movements, the deconstruction of rigid and monolithic self-understandings of past centuries has yet to find a permanent harbor. The Ecumenical Patriarchate has sailed across the waves of these centuries, navigating the storms and the doldrums of history. For twenty centuries – through the Pax Romana, the Pax Christiana, the Pax Islamica, the Pax Ottomanica (all epochs marked by intercultural struggle, conflict and outright war) – the Ecumenical Patriarchate has continued as a lighthouse for the human family and the Christian Church. It is from the depths of our experience upon these deep waters of history that we offer to the contemporary world a timeless message of perennial human value.
Today, the ecumenical scope of our Patriarchate extends far beyond the boundaries of its physical presence at the cusp of Europe and Asia, in the same City we have inhabited for the seventeen centuries since her founding. Though small in quantity, the extensive quality of our experience brings us before this august assembly today, in order to share from that experience on the necessity of intercultural dialogue, a lofty and timely ideal for the contemporary world.
As you yourselves have said – in this most esteemed body's own words:
At the heart of the European project, it is important to provide the means for intercultural dialogue and dialogue between citizens to strengthen respect for cultural diversity and deal with the complex reality in our societies and the coexistence of different cultural identities and beliefs. (Decision No 1983/2006 of EP and CEU)
And we would humbly supplement this noble statement, as we did last year in our address to the Plenary of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg.
Dialogue is necessary first and foremost because it is inherent in the nature of the human person.
This is the principal message that we propose for your consideration today: that intercultural dialogue is at the very root of what it means to be a human being, for no one culture of the human family encompasses every human person. Without such dialogue, the differences in the human family are reduced to objectifications of the "other" and lead to abuse, conflict, persecution – a grand scale human suicide, for we are all ultimately one humanity. But where the differences between us move us to encounter one another and where that encounter is based in dialogue, there is reciprocal understanding and appreciation – even love.
In the past fifty years, our human family has experienced leaps of technological achievement undreamed of by our forebears. Many have trusted that this kind of advancement will bridge the divides that fragment the human condition. As if, our achievements had given us the power to overcome the fundamental realities of our moral and – may we say – our spiritual condition. Yet, despite every conceivable benefit and technological skill – skill that seems to outstrip our anthropological wit, we still behold the universal banes of hunger, thirst, war, persecution, injustice, planned misery, intolerance, fanaticism and prejudice.
Amidst this cycle that cannot seem to be broken, the significance of the "European Project" cannot be underestimated. It is one of the hallmarks of the European Union that has succeeded in promoting mutual, peaceful and productive co-existence between nation states that less than seventy years ago were drenched in a bloody conflict that could have destroyed the legacy of Europe for the ages.
Here, in this great hall of assembly of the Parliament, you strive to make possible the relationships between states and political realities that make reconciliation between persons possible. Thus you have recognized the importance of intercultural dialogue, especially at a time in the history of Europe when transformations are taking place in every country and along every societal boundary. Great tidal forces of conflict, and economic security and opportunity have shifted populations around the globe. Of necessity then, persons of differing cultural, ethnic, religious and national origin find themselves in close proximity. In some cases, populations are excluded from the broader societal context. In some cases, the same populations shun the greater whole and close themselves off from the dominant society. But in either case, as we engage in dialogue, it must not be a mere academic exercise in mutual appreciation.
For dialogue to be effective, to be transformative in bringing about core change in persons, it cannot be done on the basis of "subject" and "object." The value of the "other" must be absolute – without objectification; so that each party is apprehended in the fullness of their being.
For Orthodox Christians, the icon, or image, stands not only as an acme of human aesthetic accomplishment, but as a tangible reminder of this perennial truth. As in every painting – religious or not and notwithstanding the talent of the artist– the object presents as two dimensional. Yet, for Orthodox Christians, an icon is no mere religious painting – and it is not, by definition, a religious object. Indeed, it is a subject with which the viewer, the worshipper, enters into wordless dialogue through the sense of sight. For an Orthodox Christian, the encounter with the icon is an act of communion with the person represented in the icon. How much more should our encounters with living icons – persons made in the image and likeness of God – be acts of communion!
In order for our dialogue to become more than mere cultural exchange, there must be a more profound understanding of the absolute interdependence – not merely of states and political and economic actors – but the interdependence of every single human person with every other single human person. And such a valuation must be made regardless of any commonality of race, religion, language, ethnicity, national origin, or any of the benchmarks by which we seek self identification and self identity. And in a world of billions of persons, how is such inter-connectedness possible?
Indeed, there is no possible way to link with every human person – this is a property that we would ascribe to the Divine. However, there is a way of understanding the universe in which we live as being shared by all – a plane of existence that spans the reality of every human person – an ecosphere that contains us all.
Thus it is that the Ecumenical Patriarchate – in keeping with our own sense of responsibility for the house, the oikos of the world and all who dwell therein, has for decades championed the cause of the environment, calling attention to ecological crises around the globe. And we engage this ministry without regard to self interest. As you know so well, our Patriarchate is not a "national" Church, but rather the fundamental canonical expression of the ecumenical dimensions of the Gospel message, and of its analogous responsibility within the life of the Church. This is the deeper reason that the Church Fathers and the Councils have given it the name, "Ecumenical." The loving care of the Church of Constantinople exceeds any linguistic, cultural, ethnic and even religious definition, as She seeks to serve all peoples. Although firmly rooted in particular history – as any other institution is – the Ecumenical Patriarchate transcends historical categories in Her perennial mission of service.
In our service to the environment, we have to date sponsored seven scientific symposia that bring together a host of disciplines. The genesis of our initiative grew on the island that gave humanity the Apocalypse, Book of Revelation, the sacred island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. And it was in the Aegean that we commenced, in 1995, an ambitious program of integrating current scientific knowledge about the oceans with the spiritual approach of the world's religions to water, particularly the world's oceans. Since Patmos we have traversed the Danube, the Adriatic Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Amazon, the Arctic Sea, and we are now making preparations to sail the Nile in Egypt and the Mississippi River in the United States next year.
What we seek is not only an ongoing dialogue that is serviceable to practical necessities, but also one that raises human consciousness. While we strive to find answers to ecological concerns and crises, we also bring the participants into a more comprehensive sense of themselves as belonging to and relating to a greater whole. We seek to embrace the ecosphere of human existence not as an object to be controlled, but as a fellow-struggler on the path of increase and improvement. As the Apostle Paul, whose 2000 year legacy both the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches are celebrating this year, says in one of his most famous epistles:
For we know that until now, the whole of creation groans with us and shares our birth pangs. (Romans 8:22)
Every ecosystem on this planet is like a nation – by definition limited to a place. The estuary is not the tundra, nor is the savanna the desert. But like every culture, every ecosystem will have an effect that goes beyond far beyond its natural – or in the case of cultures, national, boundaries. And when we understand that every ecosystem is part of the singular ecosphere that is inhabited by every living breath that fills the world, then do we grasp the interconnectedness, the powerful communion of all life, and our true interdependency on one another. Without such an understanding, we are led to ecocide, the self-destruction of the one ecosphere that sustains all human existence.
Thus it is that we come before you today, highlighting this Year of Intercultural Dialogue, bringing parables from the natural world to affirm your transcendent human values. As an institution, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has lived as a relatively small ecosystem within a much larger culture for centuries. Out of this long experience, allow us to suggest the most important practical characteristic that enables the work of intercultural dialogue to succeed.
Chiefly and above all, there must be respect for the rights of the minority within every majority. When and where the rights of the minority are observed, the society will for the most part be just and tolerant. In any culture, one segment will always be dominant – whether that dominance is based on race, religion or any other category. Segmentation is inevitable in our diverse world. What we seek to end is fragmentation! Societies that are built upon exclusion and repression cannot last. Or as the divine Prince of Peace Jesus Christ said:
Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand. (St. Matthew 12:25).
Our counsel to all is to recognize that only when we embrace the fullness of shared presence within the ecosphere of human existence, are we then able to face the "otherness" of those around us – majority or minority – with a true sense of the consanguinity of the human family. Then do we behold the stranger amongst us not as an alien, but as a brother or sister in the human family, the family of God. St. Paul expounds on pan-human relation and brotherhood quite eloquently and concisely when addressing the Athenians.
This is why Europe needs to bring Turkey into its Project and why Turkey needs to foster intercultural dialogue and tolerance in order to be accepted into the European Project. Europe should not see any religion that is tolerant of others as alien to itself. The great religions, like the European Project, can be a force that transcend nationalism and can even transcend nihilism and fundamentalism by focusing their faithful on what unites us as human beings, and by fostering a dialogue about what divides us.
From our country, Turkey, we perceive both a welcome to a new economic and trading partner, but we also feel the hesitation that comes from embracing, as an equal, a country that is predominantly Muslim. And yet Europe is filled with millions of Muslims who have come here from all sorts of backgrounds and causations; just as Europe would still be filled with Jews, had it not been for the horrors of the Second World War.
Indeed, it is not only non-Christians that Europe must encounter, but Christians who do not fit into the categories of Catholic or Protestant. The resurgence of the Orthodox Church in Eastern Europe since the fall of the Iron Curtain has truly been a marvel for the world to behold. The segmentation of Eastern Europe has led to fragmentation in many places. Not only does the center not hold; it is hardly discernable. Through this process, as nation states strive to re-establish themselves, it is the Orthodox Christian faith that has risen, even above economic indicators, to a new status that could not have been predicted even twenty years ago.
One of the vital roles of our Ecumenical Patriarchate is to assist in the process of growth and expansion that is taking place in traditional Orthodox countries, by holding fast as the canonical norm for the worldwide Orthodox Church, over a quarter of a billion people around the globe. At this moment, we wish to inform you that in October, at our invitation, all the Heads of the Orthodox Patriarchates and Autocephalous Churches will meet in Istanbul, in order to discuss our common problems and to strengthen Pan-Orthodox unity and cooperation. Simultaneously, we will also concelebrate the two thousand years since the birth of the Apostle of the Nations Paul.
Currently in the City (Istanbul) we are experiencing great joy and enthusiasm as we are all preparing for its celebration as the European Capital of Culture in the year 2010. The City, which has a long history, was a crossroads for gatherings of people and served as a place of cohabitation of diverse religions and cultures. This past week, we attended a luncheon hosted by the Prime Minister of Turkey in honor of the Prime Minister of Spain. As it is public knowledge, both are co-sponsors of the Alliance of Civilizations under the auspices of the United Nations. We heard their wonderful speeches which were harmonious with the diachronic tolerant spirit of our City.
Your Excellencies, Honorable Members of the European Parliament: the Ecumenical Patriarchate stands ready to make vital contributions to the peace and prosperity of the European Union. We are prepared to partner with you in constructive dialogues such as this, and to lend willing ears to the concerns of the day. In this spirit, our Patriarchate for the past twenty-five years has been cultivating and developing academic dialogues with Islam and Judaism. We have realized many bilateral and tri-lateral meetings. In early November in Athens, we will have our twelfth stage dialogue with Islam.
Parallel to the aforementioned dialogues, we continue theological dialogues with the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Reformed Churches. In October, at the invitation of the Pope, we will have the opportunity to address the twelfth General Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican.
In summary, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is very active in the sphere of ecumenical dialogue with the purpose of contributing to a better understanding of people, reconciliation, peace, solidarity, and for the estrangement from fanaticism, hatred, and all forms of evil.
We thank you for this singular opportunity to address you today, and we pray the abundant mercy of God and His blessing upon all your righteous endeavors. Please allow us from this honorable podium to offer our best wishes to the Muslim faithful around the globe for the upcoming Great Feast of Ramadan and also our best wishes to the Jewish faithful throughout the world for the upcoming Feast of Rosh Ha Shanah.
We are all brothers and sisters with one heavenly Father and on this beautiful planet, which we are all responsible for, there is room for everyone, but there is no room for wars and killing of one another.
We thank you once again for the great honor and privilege of addressing all of you here today.
By His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
At the Synaxis of the Heads of Orthodox Churches
(Phanar, October 10, 2008)
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1. We offer praise and glory to the Trinitarian God that we have been counted worthy once again to gather in the same place, here at this Sacred Center, as persons entrusted by His mercy with the ministry of leadership in the local most holy Autocephalous and Autonomous Orthodox Churches, in order to affirm our sacrosanct unity in Christ and deliberate on matters that concern the Church in the fulfillment of its mission within the contemporary world.
It is with much gladness and ineffable joy that our most holy Church of Constantinople and we personally welcome you all, the most venerable and reverend Heads of the local most holy Orthodox Churches, as well as the representatives of those unable to attend in person, together with your honorable entourages. We greet each one of you warmly with a sacred embrace, exclaiming with the Psalmist: “How wonderful and sweet it is for brethren to dwell in the same place.” We express our gratitude to all of you for responding with eagerness and fraternal love to the invitation of our Modesty that we might assemble here; for you have undergone sacrifice and toil in order to travel to our City. We deeply appreciate this response on your part as evidence of brotherly love, but also of concern for the support and reaffirmation of unity within the most holy Orthodox Church, for whose unity we have been assigned guardians, keepers and guarantors by divine grace.
2. From the moment that, by God’s mercy, we assumed the reins of this First Throne among Churches, we have regarded it as our sacred obligation and duty to strengthen the bonds of love and unity of all those entrusted with the leadership of the local Orthodox Churches. Thus, in response also to the desire of other brothers serving as Heads, we took the initiative of convoking several occasions for Synaxis: first, in this City on the Sunday of Orthodoxy in 1992; then, on the sacred island of Patmos in 1995; and thereafter, we had the blessing of experiencing similar encounters and concelebrations in Jerusalem and the Phanar on the occasion of the beginning and end of the year 2000 as we entered this third millennium of the Lord’s era.
Of course, these occasions for Synaxis do not comprise an “institution” by canonical standards. As known, the sacred Canons of our Church assign the supreme responsibility and authority for decisions on ecclesiastical matters to the Synodical system, wherein all hierarchs in active ministry participate either in rotation or in plenary. This canonical establishment is by no means substituted by the Synaxis of the Heads of Churches. Nevertheless, from time to time, such a Synaxis is deemed necessary and beneficial, especially in times like ours, when the personal encounter and conversation among responsible leaders in all public domains of human life is rendered increasingly accessible and essential. Therefore, the benefit gained from a personal encounter of the Heads of the Orthodox Churches can, with God’s grace, only prove immense.
3. This Synaxis, beloved brothers in the Lord, occurs within the context of a great anniversary for the Orthodox Church and, indeed, for the entire Christian world. While the precise date of the birth of St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, is not known, it is conventionally estimated around the year 8AD, namely two thousand years ago. This has led other Christian Churches, such as the Roman Catholic Church, to dedicate the present calendar year as the Year of St. Paul; it was clear that the Orthodox Church, which owes so much to this supreme Apostle, could not do otherwise.
The first and greatest obligation to St. Paul is the preaching and entire Apostolic ministry of this “chosen vessel of Christ” in founding the Churches that today lie within the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Patriarchates and Autocephalous Churches, for example in Asia Minor, Antioch, Cyprus and Greece. Bearing this obligation in mind, the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided to organize a journey of pilgrimage in certain regions within its canonical confines where St. Paul preached, and fraternally to invite thereto the other Heads of the most holy Orthodox Churches in order that together we may honor the infinite labors and sacrifices, as well as all that was endured and realized by St. Paul “with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death … on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from [his] own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked.” (2 Cor. 11.23-7) And all this with in order to found and establish the Churches, whose pastoral care and direction the Lord’s mercy has also assigned to us.
Another obligation before St. Paul’s “labor of love” relates to his teaching, articulated in his epistles and the “Acts of the Apostles” written by his coworker in the Gospel, St. Luke the Evangelist. This teaching expresses “the exceptional character of the revelations” (2 Cor. 12.7), of which St. Paul was counted worthy by the grace of the Lord, and has remained through the centuries a guide and compass for the Church of Christ, the foundation of the doctrines of our faith, and an inviolable rule of faith and life for all us Orthodox Christians. The theology of the Church has always drawn and will continue to draw from the depth and breadth of concepts in St. Paul’s teaching.
4. This is why we deemed it appropriate, in the context of these Pauline celebrations, to organize an international and inter-Christian scholarly symposium, where select participants from the Orthodox Church and from other Christian Churches and Confessions may address and analyze topics related to various dimensions of St. Paul’s life and teaching as we journey in pilgrimage and visit the sacred places where the Apostle to the Gentiles preached and ministered. The texts of their presentations will be published in a special volume, which will hopefully contribute to Pauline studies.
As will undoubtedly become clear from the proceedings of this symposium, the teaching of St. Paul does not simply concern the past; it has – today as ever – immediate relevance in our times. For our own Synaxis in particular, this teaching is extremely significant, chiefly with regard to one of its fundamental aspects, namely its emphasis on the crucial and always topical subject of the unity of the Church, which – as we mentioned earlier – constitutes a great responsibility and concern for all Bishops in the Church, and especially the Heads of Churches.
5. St. Paul is perhaps the first theologian of Church unity. Since its foundation, the Church experienced unity as a fundamental feature of its life. After all, this was an explicit desire of the Church’s founder, expressed with particular emphasis in the prayer to His Father just prior to His passion: “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one. I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one.” (John 17.20-3) However, St. Paul is the first to develop and explore this unity in detail; and he toiled for this unity like no other among the Apostles.
Indeed, just as St. Paul preached the Gospel enthusiastically, so also did he labor for Church unity passionately. His “anxiety for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11.28) and their unity in Christ consumed his entire existence. As St. John Chrysostom observes: “He bore responsibility, not only for a home but for cities, provinces, nations and the whole oikoumene; indeed, he was anxious about so many and so diverse important matters, for which he suffered alone and cared even more than a father for his children.” (PG 61.571B)
Nothing else brought such sorrow to the Apostle’s heart than the lack of unity and love among members of the Church: “If you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another,” he writes with great pain to the Galatians. (Gal. 5.15) Moreover, addressing the Corinthians, he appeals to them “by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no division among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.” (1 Cor. 1.10) When he ascertains that the faithful in Corinth are divided into parties, he cries out in sadness: “Has Christ been divided?” (1 Cor. 1.13)
Truly, then, for St. Paul, schism in the Church is as frightening and horrible as the division of Christ Himself. For, according to the great Apostle, the Church is “the body of Christ,” comprising Christ Himself. “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it,” he writes to the Corinthians. (1 Cor. 12.27) We all know how St. Paul insists on characterizing the Church as “the body of Christ,” an image he articulates extensively in the twelfth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians. This concept is not metaphorical, but ontological in content. Division in the Church renders the very body of Christ divided. In fact, division is so repulsive and horrible for St. John Chrysostom, according to his interpretation of St. Paul’s letters, that he claims not even martyrdom can erase the sin of someone that causes division or insists on division.
Consequently, we could ask what St. Paul might say today if he were to encounter the indifference of so many of our contemporaries for the restoration of unity in the Church. Surely he would rebuke them harshly, as perhaps he might do with each of us in our tolerance or neglect before the numerous schisms and divisions invoking the name of Christ or even the name of Orthodoxy. One cannot properly honor St. Paul if one does not simultaneously labor for the unity of the Church.
6. It is this kind of struggle for the unity of the Church that St. Paul undertook with a view to bridging the gap between the judaizing Christian Jews and those from the Gentiles. Among the churches founded by St. Paul within the world of the Gentiles and that in Jerusalem, it is well known that there existed differences seriously threatening the fabric of the early Church. These differences were related to whether or not one should keep the precepts of the Mosaic Law, culminating especially in the practice or not of circumcision also among the gentile Christians. Paul’s attitude on this matter was particularly instructive. In his attitude, we may discern the first seeds of Church practice, which later became known in the canon law of our Orthodox Church as “economy” (or dispensation, oikonomia). Just like the Law of Moses, the Sacred Canons must be respected; nevertheless, they cannot also fail to take into consideration the human person, for which after all the Sabbath (namely, the Law) was made, in accordance with the familiar phrase of the Lord (cf. Mark 2.27). Echoing the spirit of our Lord, St. Paul insisted on his position and thereby pointed to the way of “oikonomia” in order not to disrupt Church unity by imposing unbearable burdens on the shoulders of the weak.
However, even the manner with which St. Paul chose to preserve Church unity at that very critical moment was enlightening. At Paul’s initiative, a solution was reached by convoking a Council in Jerusalem, which by the grace of the Holy Spirit ultimately safeguarded the unity of the Church (cf. Acts 15). Thus, while Paul was convinced of the correctness of his opinion, he was not satisfied in persisting on what he believed to be true. His passion for the unity of the Church led him to the only possible and valid defense of his position, which lies in the conciliar decision itself. The Church upheld this way through the ages, defining through Synods alone what is truthful and what is heretical. It is only in our times that we observe among Orthodox the phenomenon of individuals or groups vociferating their opinions, sometimes persistently opposing conciliar decisions of the Churches. Yet, according to the example of St. Paul as well as the Church through the centuries, both truth and Church unity are only preserved synodically.
7. At the same time, for St. Paul, Church unity is not merely an internal matter of the Church. If he insists so strongly on maintaining unity, it is because Church unity is inextricably linked with the unity of all humanity. The Church does not exist for itself but for all humankind and, still more broadly, for the whole of creation.
St. Paul describes Christ as the “second” or “final” Adam, namely as humanity in its entirety (cf. 1 Cor. 15.14 and Rom. 5.14). And “just as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.” (1 Cor. 15.22; cf. Rom. 5.19) Just as the human race is united in Adam, so also “all things are gathered up in [Christ], both things in heaven and things on earth.” (Eph. 1.10) As St. John Chrysostom remarks, this “gathering up” (or recapitulation, anakephalaiosis) signifies that “one head had been established for all, namely the incarnate Christ, for both humans and angels, the human and divine Word. And he gathered them under one head so that there may be complete union and contiguity.” (PG 62.16)
Nevertheless, this “recapitulation” of the entire world in Christ is not conceived by St. Paul outside the Church. As he explains in his letter to the Colossians (1.16-18), in Christ “all things in heaven and on earth were created and … in him all things hold together” precisely because “he is the head of the body, the Church.” “[God] has made him the head over all things for the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Eph. 1.22-3) For St. Paul, then, Christ is the head of all – of all people and all creation – because He is at the same time head of the Church. The Church as the body of Christ is not fulfilled unless it assumes in itself the whole world.
There are many useful conclusions that we may gain from this ecclesiology of St. Paul. We confine ourselves to pointing out, first, the importance – for the life of the Church in general and for the ministry of us all in particular – of the duty of mission. The evangelization of God’s people, as well as of those who do not believe in Christ, constitutes the supreme obligation of the Church. This obligation – at least, when it is not realized aggressively (as was the case in the past, primarily in Western Christianity) or deceptively (as is the case with various forms of proselytism) but with love, humility and respect for the cultural particularity of each person – responds to the Lord’s desire that, through the unity of the Church, “the world may believe” in Him. (John 17.21) So we must in every way encourage and support the external mission of the Church wherever it is practiced, particularly in the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Alexandria within the vast continent of Africa.
However, even within our Churches, the need and obligation to evangelize is today rendered imperative. We must become conscious of the fact that in contemporary societies, especially in the context of western civilization, faith in Christ can in no way be taken at all for granted. Orthodox theology cannot today be developed or expounded without dialogue with modern currents of philosophical thought and social dynamics, as well as with various forms of art and culture of our times. In this regard, the message and overall word of Orthodoxy cannot be aggressive, as it often unfortunately is; for this is of no benefit at all. Rather, it must be dialectical, dialogical and reconciliatory. We must first understand other people and discern their deeper concerns; for, even behind disbelief, there lies concealed the search for the true God.
Finally, the connection between the unity of the Church and the unity of the world, on which the Apostle to the Gentiles insists, imposes on us the need to assume the role of peacemaker within a world torn by conflicts. The Church cannot – indeed, it must not – in any way nurture religious fanaticism, whether consciously or subconsciously. When zeal becomes fanaticism, it deviates from the nature of the Church, particularly the Orthodox Church. By contrast, we must develop initiatives of reconciliation wherever conflicts among people either loom or erupt. Inter-Christian and inter-religious dialogue is the very least of our obligations; and it is one that we must surely fulfill.
However, the modern world is unfortunately plagued by a crisis that cannot be reduced to inter-personal relations but extends to the relationship between humanity and the natural environment. According to St. Paul, as we have already observed, Christ constitutes the head of all, of things visible and invisible, namely of all creation, while the Church as His body unites not only humanity but the whole of creation. Therefore, it is abundantly clear that the Church cannot remain idle before the crisis that affects humanity in relation to the natural environment. It is our obligation to assume every possible initiative: first, so that our own flock may become aware of the demand for respect toward creation by avoiding any abuse or irrational use of natural resources; second, so that we may support every effort that aspires to the protection of God’s creation. For, as everyone acknowledges, the cause of the ecological crisis is profoundly spiritual, primarily due to human greed and indulgence, which characterize modern man. With its long ascetic tradition and liturgical ethos, the Orthodox Church can contribute greatly to confronting the ecological crisis that now threatens our planet. In full recognition of this, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has – already since 1989, as the first church to do so in the Christian world – issued an Encyclical signed by our venerable predecessor Patriarch Dimitrios, establishing September 1st of each year as a day of prayer for the protection of the natural environment. It has also, since that time, promoted a series of activities, such as the organization of international symposia involving scholars and religious leaders in order to ascertain ways of protecting God’s creation from imminent destruction. We invite and appeal to all sister Orthodox Churches to support this endeavor of our Patriarchate; after all, our obligation and responsibility before God and History is something we all bear in common.
8. And now, beloved brothers in the Lord, let us turn our thought to the internal affairs of our Orthodox Church, whose leadership the Lord’s mercy has entrusted to us. We have been deigned by our Lord to belong to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, whose faithful continuation and expression in History is our Holy Orthodox Church. We have received and preserve the true faith, as the holy Fathers have transmitted it to us through the Ecumenical Councils of the one undivided Church. We commune of the same Body and Blood of our Lord in the Divine Eucharist, and we participate in the same Sacred Mysteries. We basically keep the same liturgical typikon and are governed by the same Sacred Canons. All these safeguard our unity, granting us fundamental presuppositions for witness in the modern world.
Despite this, we must admit in all honesty that sometimes we present an image of incomplete unity, as if we were not one Church, but rather a confederation or a federation of churches. This is largely a result of the institution of autocephaly, which characterizes the structure of the Orthodox Church. As is known, this institution dates back to the early Church, when the so-called “Pentarchy” of the ancient Apostolic Sees and Churches – namely, of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem – was still valid. The communion or “symphony” of these Sees expressed the unity of the universal Church in the oikoumene. This Pentarchy was severed after the tragic schism of 1054AD between Rome and Constantinople originally, and afterward between Rome and the other Patriarchates. To the four Orthodox Patriarchates that remained after the Schism, from the middle of the second millennium to this day, other autocephalous Churches were added until we have the prevailing organization of the Orthodox Church throughout the world today.
Yet, while the original system of Pentarchy emanated from respect for the apostolicity and particularity of the traditions of these ancient Patriarchates, the autocephaly of later Churches grew out of respect for the cultural identity of nations. Moreover, the overall system of autocephaly was encroached in recent years, through secular influences, by the spirit of ethnophyletism or, still worse, of state nationalism, to the degree that the basis for autocephaly now became the local secular nation, whose boundaries, as we all know, do not remain stable but depend on historical circumstance. So we have reached the perception that Orthodoxy comprises a federation of national Churches, frequently attributing priority to national interests in their relationship with one another. In light of this image, which somewhat recalls the situation in Corinth when the first letter to the Corinthians was written, the Apostle Paul would ask: has Orthodoxy been divided? This question is also posed by many observers of Orthodox affairs in our times.
Of course, the response commonly proffered to this question is that, despite administrational division, Orthodoxy remains united in faith, the Sacraments, etc. But is this sufficient? When before non-Orthodox we sometimes appear divided in theological dialogues and elsewhere; when we are unable to proceed to the realization of the long-heralded Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church; when we lack a unified voice on contemporary issues and, instead, convoke bilateral dialogues with non-Orthodox on these issues; when we fail to constitute a single Orthodox Church in the so-called Diaspora in accordance with the ecclesiological and canonical principles of our Church; how can we avoid the image of division in Orthodoxy, especially on the basis of non-theological, secular criteria?
We need, then, greater unity in order to appear to those outside not as a federation of Churches but as one unified Church. Through the centuries, and especially after the Schism, when the Church of Rome ceased to be in communion with the Orthodox, this Throne was called – according to canonical order – to serve the unity of the Orthodox Church as its first Throne. And it fulfilled this responsibility through the ages by convoking an entire series of Panorthodox Councils on crucial ecclesiastical matters, always prepared, whenever duly approached, to render its assistance and support to troubled Orthodox Churches. In this way, a canonical order was created and, accordingly, the coordinating role of this Patriarchate guaranteed the unity of the Orthodox Church, without in the least damaging or diminishing the independence of the local autocephalous Churches by any interference in their internal affairs. This, in any case, is the healthy significance of the institution of autocephaly: while it assures the self-governance of each Church with regard to its internal life and organization, on matters affecting the entire Orthodox Church and its relations with those outside, each autocephalous Church does not act alone but in coordination with the rest of the Orthodox Churches. If this coordination either disappears or diminishes, then autocephaly becomes “autocephalism” (or radical independence), namely a factor of division rather than unity for the Orthodox Church.
Therefore, dearly beloved brothers in the Lord, we are called to contribute in every possible way to the unity of the Orthodox Church, transcending every temptation of regionalism or nationalism so that we may act as a unified Church, as one canonically structured body. We do not, as during Byzantine times, have at our disposal a state factor that guaranteed – and sometimes even imposed – our unity. Nor does our ecclesiology permit any centralized authority that is able to impose unity from above. Our unity depends on our conscience. The sense of need and duty that we constitute a single canonical structure and body, one Church, is sufficient to guarantee our unity, without any external intervention.
In consideration of all these things, and with a sense of our Church’s obligation before God and History in an age when the unified witness of Orthodoxy is judged crucial and expected by all, we invite and call on you fraternally that, with the approval also of our respective Holy Synods, we may proceed to the following necessary actions:
To advance the preparations for the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, already commenced through Pan-orthodox Pre-Conciliar Consultations.
To activate the 1993 agreement of the Inter-Orthodox Consultation of the Holy and Great Council in order to resolve the pending matter of the Orthodox Diaspora.
To strengthen by means of further theological support the decisions taken on a Pan-orthodox level regarding participation of the Orthodox Church in theological dialogues with non-Orthodox.
To proclaim once again the vivid interest of the entire Orthodox Church for the crucial and urgent matter of protecting the natural environment, supporting on a Pan-orthodox level the relative initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
To establish an Inter-Orthodox Committee for the study of matters arising today in the field of bioethics, on which the world justifiably also awaits the Orthodox position.
We deemed it proper to offer these proposals for your consideration in our desire that this Synaxis, after exchanging more general thoughts, may also conclude with several specific decisions, whereby the unity of our Church will be expressed in deed. After all, this is what public opinion expects of us, both among our own flocks but also in the world around us. You are certainly able to add other proposals to these, should this be deemed necessary, Your Beatitudes and most eminent brothers.
In closing our address, we express once again glory to our all-good God, for vouchsafing that we convene in the same place within the context of the Pauline celebrations, and pray that our brotherly fellowship in the Lord during these days will unite us still more in the bond of love.
“Now to Him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine; to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 3.20-1) Amen.
By His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
During the Formal Reception of His Beatitude Patriarch Kirill of Moscow
In the Hall of the Throne
(July 4, 2009)
Your Beatitude and All-Holy Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All-Russia, dearly beloved Brother and Concelebrant in the Holy Spirit, welcome to Constantinople, New Rome, whence came the light of the Gospel to Your great homeland! We welcome – both you and your honorable Patriarchal entourage – to the See of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
This visit, Your Beatitude, being your first journey as Patriarch to the court of the Mother Church, which you have of course visited repeatedly in the past, in another capacity, comprises for us as well as for the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Throne cause for great joy and profound sentiment. After your joyful and hopeful, while at the same time entirely deserved, election and enthronement only a few months ago for the holy Patriarchal Throne of Moscow and All-Russia, succeeding your much blessed and deeply mourned predecessor, our beloved Brother Alexy II, behold today we have you with us in person as a dear brother, filled with grace, bearing peace, conveying love and piety from the most holy Church of Russia, its venerable Hierarchy and faithful Russian people. “How wonderful are your steps,” holy and beloved Brother, “as they walk in the gospel of love, announcing the good news!” May your arrival and sojourn here be blessed. “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!”
Our acquaintance, Your Beatitude, is old. We encountered you, still in your youth as a hopeful Archimandrite, representing the Russian Church at the World Council of Churches as well as at other inter-church bodies and conferences; and later as Bishop, even as Archbishop, of Vyborg but especially as Metropolitan of Smolensk, responsible for the Office of External Ecclesiastical Relations of your Patriarchate, in which capacity we were pleased to cooperate with you closely on repeated occasions. In your person we discerned the much-talented ecclesiastical man, the skilled manager of sensitive matters of the Church, the distinguished theologian and honorable laborer of the Gospel. In this way, when the electoral body looked upon you to assume the responsibility and honor as the successor of the Patriarchal and most holy Church of Russia, we were not surprised. For we observed the natural progression of matters, sincerely rejoicing and glorifying the all-holy name of God, who deemed worthy to place you as the bright lamp over the great and holy Church of Russia.
Thus, we welcome you, Your Beatitude – precisely 420 years after the elevation of your blessed predecessor Metropolitan Job to Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia by our blessed predecessor Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremiah II the Great – with a profound sense of fervent love and wholehearted honor. For we welcome the successor of that Job, of the martyr Philip, the theologian Philaret, the wise Plato, the great and equal to the Apostles Innocent, the holy and patient Tichon, as well as numerous Patriarchs who glorified your Throne with their virtue, wisdom, holiness, martyrdom and confession of Christ. We are certain that their souls rejoice at your promotion and their holy prayers are with us all at this hour.
Your Beatitude, you have been called to the helm of the Patriarchate of Moscow and All-Russia not of course under the harsh conditions of your venerable predecessors, from St. Tichon to your immediate predecessor Alexy II, but also not in bright or cloudless days for our world. A spiritual crisis, a moral crisis, a financial crisis and indeed a crisis with many names characterizes our world from one end to another. It is true that militant atheism has retreated almost everywhere; yet the practical atheism of self-sufficiency, insensitivity and material pleasure are alive and strong. Supposedly in the name of God, the sounds of war are still heard, the blood of people is still shed, and numerous populations are uprooted and rendered refugees. Religious and nationalistic fanaticism is increasing, nations exchange hands, human beings are humiliated and ridiculed in dark “trafficking,” women and children are abused, drugs are pushed. At the same time, Christians – instead of remaining unified and working together in one spirit and one heart so that the hope that is within us may prove a convincing word – are troubled by divisions, disagreements and trivialities both on a pan-Christian level as well as (which is worse) on the inter-Orthodox level. Yet, this renders us greatly responsible before the Arch-Shepherd Christ, who demands us to have love, peace and unity among us in order that our light may shine before the world and that all people may be directed to the Father of Lights by means of our good deeds and example.
Nevertheless, Your Beatitude and dear Brother, we have before us the common decisions of the blessed Synaxis of the Primates of the most holy Orthodox Churches held last October at the Phanar, with the participation and unanimous agreement also of your predecessor, the late Patriarch Alexy. These decisions were taken in light of the Holy and Great Synod of Orthodoxy, giving us a fitting witness as one family, so to speak, before the Christian world as well as to those outside of Christianity, who are in great uncertainty, confusion and anxiety. The common Pre-Conciliar Conference held only a few days ago in Geneva, together with the prevailing spirit of unity and love as well as its pious and unanimous decisions, not only grant us much hope but at the same time also comprise a model for the future.
Your Beatitude! You were born into a priestly family, you were nurtured by the piety of your priestly father, so that the Pauline words also hold true for you: “You have known the sacred letters from childhood, and these are able to enlighten you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3.15) When you were born, there was still “deep night”; and while you were a child, you experienced the horrible persecution that broke out exactly fifty years ago against the Church. You matured in difficult days, being molded as iron in the fire. All this was divine dispensation in order that you may be well prepared and qualified in ecclesiastical matters, gaining training and invaluable experience for the struggle that you have assumed upon your shoulders with the great burden of Patriarchal responsibility for the difficult and critical times that lie ahead. Your qualifications, together with your broad education, your spiritual cultivation, the open horizons of your thought, your manifold virtue, your numerous acquaintances throughout the world, as well as the confidence and love of your Hierarchy, clergy and laity, bode brightly for a fruitful Patriarchal tenure. We assure you that we are beside you. We extend to you a hand of sincere love and unfeigned cooperation. We are ready to work with you, in the context of canonical order and the ages-old and sacred ecclesiastical traditions, in directness of heart before God, for the benefit not only of our two Churches, but of the entire Orthodox and Christian world.
Welcome, then, Your Beatitude and beloved Brother. We pray that your visit here will be the first in a series of many blessed such occasions. Our fraternal embrace will always be open to you and your honorable coworkers in the Lord. May your years be many and healthy!
de Sa Sainteté le Patriarche Œcuménique Bartholomaios Ier
à l’occasion du cinquantenaire de la Conférence des Églises Européennes
(Lyon, le 19 juillet 2009)
«L’Avenir riche d’espoir de la Conférence des Églises européennes »
Nous rendons honneur et gloire au Dieu Trinitaire qui a béni le travail de notre Conférence des Églises européennes depuis cinquante ans. Lyon est hautement symbolique pour la célébration de ce Jubilé, puisque c’est dans cette ville que saint Irénée est venu d’Orient pour y exercer son ministère épiscopal. Grâce à la foi et à l’amour de saint Irénée, la distance est abolie entre l’Orient et l’Occident qui désormais cheminent ensemble dans un esprit de concertation, et demandent au Seigneur de les guider vers «… l’unité de la foi et la communion du Saint Esprit», afin de vivre aussi dans l’avenir la plénitude de leur amour et de la communion dans la même foi.
Nous avons maintes fois exprimé notre conviction, à titre personnel et au nom du Patriarcat Œcuménique, mais aussi à l’échelon panorthodoxe : c’est seulement en dialoguant et en coopérant étroitement, que les Églises seront en mesure de proclamer au monde l’Évangile du Christ, de façon convaincante et efficace. Pour cette raison, en tant qu’Église de Constantinople, depuis que notre bienheureux prédécesseur le Patriarche Joachim III a diffusé sa célèbre Encyclique de 1902, nous croyons fermement que le rétablissement de la communion chrétienne représente un devoir primordial et impératif, qui nous incombe à tous, car c’est un commandement que le Christ Sauveur a exprimé dans Sa dernière prière. Cette prière, c’est le testament de notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ, que nous devons remplir à la lettre, afin que le monde croie (Jn. 17; 21).
C’est dans cet esprit, et en priant toujours dans nos offices liturgiques pour l’union de tous, que les orthodoxes ont fondé avec d’autres Églises, le Conseil Œcuménique des Églises, il y a plus de soixante ans. De même, il y a cinquante ans, avec plusieurs Églises d’Europe, nous avons créé cette Conférence des Églises européennes (CEC), dont nous célébrons aujourd’hui le Jubilé, en rendant grâce à Dieu. En notre qualité de cofondateur et coresponsable de la CEC, nous ne goûtons pas seulement les fruits récoltés à ce jour, en partageant la joie de ceux qui se réjouissent, et nous ne nous contentons pas de nous féliciter de ces acquis, riches et bénis, mais aussi nous assumons la part de responsabilité qui nous incombe, pour toute négligence ou défaillance, survenue au fil du temps. Nous soulignons consciemment en ce moment, cette position orthodoxe, tout en souhaitant dissiper les éventuels doutes et malentendus surgis, tant à l’intérieur qu’à l’extérieur de notre Église orthodoxe, en ce qui concerne l’œuvre déjà accompli par la CEC.
En effet, nous sommes heureux d’évoquer ici la précieuse contribution d’un grand nombre des collaborateurs orthodoxes de la CEC à tous les niveaux, auxquels nous devons la plus grande gratitude.
Néanmoins, quelque ait été la contribution précieuse de toutes ces personnes, nous ne pouvons pas ignorer nos responsabilités et obligations vis à vis de la CEC, ni surtout celles qui nous incombent à l’égard du commandement de notre Seigneur, qui nous enjoint de faire tout ce qui est possible pour rétablir la pleine communion entre les Églises chrétiennes en Europe. Ceci, constitue notre espérance et notre inébranlable conviction.
Chers frères et sœurs, c’est dans cet esprit et avec les plus grands espoirs que nous envisageons l’avenir de la CEC.
Il n’y a aucun doute que pendant ce cinquantenaire écoulé nombreux et précieux sont les acquis de la CEC. Pendant cette période d’innombrables documents à teneur œcuménique ont été élaborés, des textes d’une grande profondeur théologique, telle que la Charta Œcumenica, qui est le fruit des efforts conjugués de toutes les Églises d’Europe, à savoir de notre Conférence (CEC) et du Conseil des Conférences Épiscopales d’Europe (CCEE).
Toutefois, comme il fut souligné dans le Message du 3ème Rassemblement Œcuménique européen (Sibiu 2007), de nombreuses propositions de la Charta n’ont été ni intégrées dans la conscience des nos fideles, ni, a fortiori, appliquées par nos Églises. Malheureusement, un grand nombre de ces recommandations demeurent ignorées par les fidèles des nos Églises. Elles sont donc restées lettre morte et inaptes à produire les résultats positifs attendus. Il en résulte que nos discours s’avèrent ne pas être en adéquation avec nos actes, ce qui entame la crédibilité de nos Églises et donne l’impression, tant à l’intérieur qu’à l’extérieur, qu’elles sont incapables de trouver des solutions aux problèmes existants. Nous sommes convaincus que ces observations ne sont pas nouvelles pour vous tous, c’est pourquoi nous recommandons vivement et nous encourageons cordialement les instances compétentes de notre Conférence à faire tout leur possible, pour promouvoir la question de la réception (receptio) et de la prise de conscience de ce qui a été conjointement convenu.
Nous avons la conviction que nos Écoles et Facultés de Théologie peuvent contribuer à ce but et doivent assumer leurs responsabilités en matière de programmes d’études, informer et orienter convenablement les étudiants de nos Églises, afin de leur transmettre l’esprit de réconciliation et l’impératif œcuménique bien fondé. En outre, nous souhaitons et nous recommandons aux scientifiques compétents en la matière et aux professeurs de nos Facultés de Théologie d’examiner conjointement les problèmes existants qui entravent encore l’accomplissement de la pleine communion entre nos Églises, en vue de trouver les solutions appropriées, et de nous permettre d’atteindre tous, Dieu aidant, l’unité de la foi et la communion du Saint Esprit.
Le Patriarcat Œcuménique a toujours souligné la nécessité d’une coopération entre nos Facultés de Théologie en Europe (Encyclique de 1920) et salue les engagements figurant dans la Charta Œcumenica (§ II, 3). Dès lors, nous saluons et accueillons très favorablement des initiatives semblables et toutes démarches menées dans cet objectif et nous apprécions, comme il se doit, la contribution théologique de la CEC, ainsi que sa coopération en vue de promouvoir les programmes destinés à améliorer la coopération entre nos Facultés de Théologie.
A ce propos, nous aimerions souligner que la coopération entre la CEC et le Conseil des Conférences Épiscopales d’Europe était nécessaire et constructive. Pour améliorer cet engagement œcuménique, nous proposons de mettre en place un mode de coopération mieux organisé et structuré entre ces deux instances. Nous souhaitons rappeler que l’Église de Constantinople avait naguère proposé, lors de la huitième Assemblée de notre Conférence, tenue à l’Académie orthodoxe de Crète en 1979, que l’Église Catholique Romaine devienne dans l’avenir membre de la CEC. Il est évident que cet enjeu n’est pas facile et que des travaux préalables et des amendements des règlements relatifs s’avèrent nécessaires. Néanmoins, nous sommes convaincus qu’une Conférence de toutes les Églises européennes peut, à l’unisson, répondre au mieux au commandement sacré du rétablissement de la communion ecclésiale et servir l’homme contemporain, confronté à une multitude de problèmes complexes.
Ainsi, il sera possible de promouvoir plus efficacement le dialogue des Églises d’Europe avec les institutions européennes et l’Union européenne. Ce dialogue, instauré de longue date par notre Église, est précieux et nécessaire, non pas pour les Églises, mais aussi pour les instances politiques de l’Union européenne, et surtout pour les peuples de l’Europe.
L’avenir de la Nouvelle Europe en construction, sans les valeurs spirituelles chrétiennes qui touchent tout ce qui concerne le soutien et la protection de la personne humaine et de sa dignité, est sombre, voire incertain. C’est pourquoi nous proclamons sans détour que, pour l’Europe, le respect de la dignité de la personne humaine en tant qu’ «image de Dieu», doit constituer la base du respect absolu et de la protection de l’intégrité des droits de tous les hommes «indépendamment de leur couleur, religion, race, nationalité et langue» (IIIe Conférence Panorthodoxe Préconciliaire – Chambésy 1986).
Aujourd’hui les temps sont difficiles et les conditions de vie critiques. Les guerres et les conflits entre les nations et les murs de séparation malheureusement perdurent encore. Des injustices sociales et économiques touchent chaque foyer: la xénophobie, le racisme, la violation des droits de l’homme ainsi que de la liberté religieuse, deviennent des situations de plus en plus inquiétantes. La sécularisation et la crise de la spiritualité et des valeurs chrétiennes préoccupent chaque jour davantage nos Églises. La foi, notre foi en Jésus-Christ, est aussi mise en question.
Nos jeunes sont en permanence confrontés au chômage et au manque de travail. Des entreprises, petites et grandes, ferment chaque jour à cause de la profonde crise économique. Des centaines de milliers de pauvres immigrants se refugient sur notre continent à la recherche d'un meilleur avenir, victimes de la traite des êtres humains. L’environnent enfin, souffre lui aussi de notre indifférence et de notre incompétence à le sauvegarder, à ménager un espace pour le respect de la nature et l’économie de la création.
Chrétiens, Juifs et Musulmans se trouvent depuis quelques années en dialogue pour la promotion de la paix et de réconciliation entre les différentes religions monothéistes. Tous cherchent désespérément un espoir.
C’est pourquoi, aucun ajournement ne saurait être justifié. Au contraire, la collaboration de nos Églises, ainsi que leur coopération avec les responsables européens, compétents en matière politique, économique et sociale, est tout aussi nécessaire qu’impérative.
Il est de notre devoir de proclamer et de témoigner ensemble le Christ crucifié, qui a souffert, a été enseveli et qui «par la mort a vaincu la mort» comme le dit le tropaire de Pâques. Il a anéanti la mort et libéré le genre humain «en lui donnant la vie». En dépit des difficultés et des contretemps, des crises et des conflits, des guerres et des souffrances, il est aujourd’hui du devoir de tous les chrétiens et de toutes les Églises de transmettre ensemble ce message de la Résurrection et de l’espérance, ce message de la réconciliation et de la paix, car le Christ est l’espoir du monde. Nous ne méconnaissons pas la douleur, les souffrances et le martyre, mais nous persistons irrévocablement à résister et à proclamer avec vous tous, aujourd’hui et demain et pour l’éternité, les paroles de l’Apôtre Paul : «Cela importe d'autant plus que vous savez en quel temps nous sommes, c'est l'heure de vous réveiller enfin du sommeil, car maintenant le salut est plus près de nous que lorsque nous avons cru. La nuit est avancée, le jour approche. Dépouillons-nous donc des oeuvres des ténèbres, et revêtons les armes de la lumière.» (Rm 13, 11-12).
Mus par une conviction, un amour et une foi inébranlables, nous devons proclamer aux hommes opprimés et plongés dans la souffrance, la force, le courage et la volonté de résistance émanant de l’optimisme et de l’espoir du Message du Christ: «Revêtez-vous de toutes les armes de Dieu, afin de pouvoir tenir ferme contre les ruses du diable… Tenez donc ferme: ayez à vos reins la vérité pour ceinture, revêtez la cuirasse de la justice, mettez pour chaussure à vos pieds le zèle que donne l'Évangile de paix prenez par-dessus tout cela le bouclier de la foi, avec lequel vous pourrez éteindre tous les traits enflammés du malin; prenez aussi le casque du salut…» (Ep. 6, 10-12).
Nous sommes profondément convaincus que le Dieu Trinitaire guidera nos pas, ainsi que les actes de la Conférence des Églises européennes et de toutes les Églises d’Europe, lors les cinquante ans à venir dans l’amour et la communion, pour le bien de tous et la gloire de Son saint Nom.
 Cf. Divine Liturgie de St. Jean Chrysostome.
ADDRESS by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
to the World Council of Churches Plenary Commission on Faith and Order
"CALLED TO BE ONE CHURCH"
Unity as Calling, Conversion and Mission (Crete, Greece, 7 October 2009).
It is with great joy that we accepted the gracious invitation by your revered Faith and Order Commission to address this auspicious plenary gathering. We would also like to welcome you all – academics and pastors, ministers and lay leaders from diverse regions of the world – to our Orthodox Academy on this uniquely beautiful island. The theme of your plenary session is: “Called to be One Church: that they may become one in your hand.” It was on this blessed island of Crete that the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches finally revised the statement on ecclesiology in June 2005, a statement ultimately received at the 9th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches at Porto Alegre in February 2006. This text constitutes the culmination of a long development and maturing perspective – through numerous phases, stages and interpretations – of member Churches that began as early as at the First Conference of Faith and Order in Lausanne, 1927, if not earlier, in an earnest search for the visible unity, for which we all yearn and to which we are all called. Let us, then, together renew our commitment to dialogue and unity as a way of reflection and renewal. And let our deliberation be a prayerful offering to God in our sincere desire that we “may be one” (John 17.21) in response to our Lord’s command and call.
Unity as Calling
In this commitment, however, let us begin with
thanksgiving and glorification, which impose upon us what, in Orthodox thought and spirituality, we call the apophatic approach. The teaching on the apophatic way pertains to the conviction that
God is by definition and by nature beyond human understanding; otherwise, if we could comprehend and grasp God, then God would not be God. This is the teaching of the great mystics, like St.
Gregory of Nyssa in the 4th century and St. Gregory Palamas in the 14th century, who underlined the radical transcendence as well as the relative immanence of God. Basing their theology on sound
Scriptural principles, according to which “no one can see God” (Exodus 33.20; John 1.18 and 1 John 4.12), these Church Fathers proclaimed God as profoundly unknowable and yet personally known;
God as invisible and yet accessible; God as distant and yet as intensely present – the infinite and incomprehensible God, who becomes intimate and incarnate to the world. God’s unknowability and
inaccessibility ultimately oblige us to a spirit of humility and worship.
If the apophatic attitude is our starting-point, then
we may appreciate how the unity of the Church, like the unity of God, is also a never-ending search, an ever-unfolding journey. Even in the age to come, as St. Gregory of Nyssa would affirm,
growth in the divine life is without end and with endless perfection; it is, indeed, constant progress through continually refining stages. This mindset demands from us a sense of forbearance
rather than of impatience. We should not be frustrated by our human limitations, which unfortunately determine our disagreements and divisions. Our ongoing and persistent pursuit of unity is a
testimony to the fact that what we seek will occur in God’s time and not our own; it is, by the same token, the fruit of heavenly grace and divine kairos.
Unity as Conversion
If unity – as our own ongoing and persistent goal – is
finally a gift of God, then it demands a profound sense of humility and not any prideful insistence. This means that we are called to learn from others as well as to learn from time-tested
formulations. It also implies that imposing our ways – whether “conservative” or “liberal” – on others is arrogant and hypocritical. Instead, genuine humility demands from all of us a sense of
openness to the past and the future; in other words, much like the ancient god Janus, we are called to manifest respect for the time-tested ways of the past and regard for the heavenly city that
we seek (cf. Heb. 13.14). This “turning” toward the past and the future is surely part and parcel of conversion.
Thus, it is crucial that we learn from the early Fathers and Mothers of the Church, that we embrace the mind of the early Church by immersing ourselves in the spirit of the Christian classics. In a word, Orthodox theology refers to this as “tradition.” This in no way signifies a sentimental attachment to the past or an intellectual fascination with Patristic literature. Rather, we should learn from those who – in each generation – maintained the integrity and intensity of the Apostolic faith. The Church in our age must be marked by such continuity and consistency with the past, which forms an intrinsic part of the contemporary Church. In this regard, at least for Orthodox Christians, Saints Basil and Gregory are very much alive, vividly present – not only in our liturgy, but also in our teaching and practice.
At the same time, however, we should turn our attention to the future, to the age to come, toward the heavenly kingdom. Orthodox theology adopts the term “eschatology” in order to appreciate this attitude. Nevertheless, by “eschatology,” we do not imply a sense of escapism or other-worldliness. Focusing on the “last times” or the “last things” is a way of envisioning this world in light of the next. An eschatological vision offers a way out of the impasse of provincialism and confessionalism. It urges us to “listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches.” (Rev. 1.10-11) It allows us to believe that God’s light is stronger than any darkness in this world and that the Alpha and Omega is working in us and through us for the salvation of the world and for the unity of the Church. And so we pray with conviction: “Come, Lord Jesus.” Maranatha. (Rev. 22:20)
Unity in Mission
Finally, the sense of calling and the urgency of conversion permit us to discern the areas of our common ministry and united mission. As individual communities, we are “fragile sticks,” to adopt the words of the biblical passage of our conference from the Prophet Ezekiel (chapter 37, verses 15-28). Together, however, we can become one people under one God, neither divided among ourselves nor defiling the covenant of the Lord. Indeed, the conditions of this new way are the avoiding of idol-worship (verse 23) and the making of peace (verse 26). In modern terminology, it is the preservation of creation as the proper way of worshipping the Creator and the promotion of tolerance and understanding among religions and peoples in our world. Working closely together on issues of ecological awareness and ecumenical dialogue is a crucial reflection of the “everlasting covenant” (verses 25-26), whereby Ezekiel’s God proclaims: “I will be their God and they shall be my people … forevermore” (verses 27-28).
For the Hebrew Prophets, just as for the Apostolic community, justice and peace are closely linked to the preservation and balance of the land as God’s creation. This means that our Churches are called to a common ministry and mission, proclaiming and promoting a worldview in which God’s authority – the authority of the kingdom – guides our ways and determines our actions. We must never forget that this world is inherited; it is a gift from above, offered as a means of communion with God.
If, then, we are to submit to the authority of God, the authority of the kingdom, then we must be authentic and prophetic in our criticism of the world’s consumerism. We must remember and remind our faithful that the land – and all the fullness thereof – belongs to the Lord (cf. Psalm 24.1), that the world’s resources must be oriented toward others. We must recall the Lord’s beatitude, according to which “the meek shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5.5). For the meek person is the one who reverses the world’s attitudes to power and possessions; otherwise, the land becomes a place of division and violence. Meekness is ultimately a way of caring, a way of sharing. And it stands as a contrast and correction to the desecration that we have brought into God’s creation.
Beloved brothers and sisters, the unity that we seek is
a gift from above, which we must pursue persistently as well as patiently; it is not something that depends solely on us, but primarily on God’s judgment and kairos. Nevertheless, this sacred
gift of unity is something that also demands of us radical conversion and re-orientation so that we may turn humbly toward our common roots in the Apostolic Church and the communion of saints,
but also so that we may entrust ourselves and submit to God’s heavenly kingdom and authority. Finally, however, unity obliges us to a common purpose in this age as we expect the age-to-come; for
it commits us to a sacred ministry and mission in realizing that kingdom, as we declare in the Lord’s prayer, “on earth as in heaven.” Such is the sacred gift that we have inherited. This, too,
is the sacred task that lies before us. “Let us go forth in peace” (From the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom) to proclaim the good news to the world.
As we conclude, let us remember all those ecumenical pioneers who served this Commission so capably and virtuously in the past thirty years, either as Moderators or Directors, and with whom we had the privilege and the opportunity to work with on so many important themes, but now are no longer among us. In particular, we would like to mention the well-known Greek theologian Prof. Nikos Nissiotis, and Prof. John Deschner who served as Moderators, and Rev. Dr Lukas Vischer and Bishop Dr. William Lazareth who served as Directors. May their memories be eternal and may they continue to rest peacefully in the refreshing hands of our Merciful God. Let us continue to honor their memories by imitating their dedication and zeal.
We would also like to thank Dame Dr. Mary Tanner and Bishop Dr. David Yemba Kekumba, who served as Moderators, and the Rev. Dr. Guenther Gassmann and Rev. Dr. Alan Falconer, who served as Directors, for their immense contributions to the Commission.
We also do not want to forget those who served the Commission as Staff for several years from our Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, H.E. Metropolitan Prof. John of Pergamon, Member of the Academy of Athens, and H.E. Metropolitan Prof. Dr. Gennadios of Sassima, who served as a staff member for ten years and later on replaced us as Vice-Moderator and later served as Moderator. We would like to thank and congratulate them for their dedicated service to the Commission.
May the grace, peace and love of God be with all of you.