Of His All Holiness
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
At the Thronal Feast of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
(November 30, 2009)
Your Eminence Cardinal Walter Kasper, representative of His Holiness the Pope and Bishop of Rome, Benedict XVI, and your honorable entourage,
It is with great joy that we welcome you once again to the
courtyard of the Church of New Rome in order to concelebrate the sacred memory
of its founder and protector Saint Andrew the First-Called of the Apostles.
We express our heartfelt gratitude to our beloved brother in the Lord, His Holiness
Pope Benedict of Old Rome, who deigned to delegate his representatives to the
Thronal feast of our Church, following the custom established decades ago for
an exchange of visitations during the patronal feasts of our two ancient and
apostolic Churches as confirmation of their desire to lift the impediments,
accumulated over a millennium and preventing the fullness of communion among
them. We attribute great symbolical significance to your presence here inasmuch
as it also reveals – in a deeply formal manner – the desire of the
most holy Church of Rome to do whatever it can on its part, so that we may rediscover
our unity in the same faith and sacramental communion according to the will
of Him who has called us to unity “so that the world may believe.”
As is known, St. Andrew the First-Called of the apostles, whom we celebrate today, was the brother of St. Peter the chief among the apostles; together, they knew Christ and believed in Him. The two brothers held this faith in common; the two Churches, which they founded and sanctified by means of their preaching and martyrdom, I did also hold this faith in common. This same faith was proclaimed as doctrine by our common Church Fathers, who gathered from east and west in ecumenical councils, where they transmitted it as an invaluable treasure to our Churches in order that we might build upon this faith our unity in Christ. It is this same faith, preserved intact for an entire millennium both in the east and the west, which we are again called to establish as the basis of our unity, cleansing it from any chance addition or alteration, so that “with one soul and one mind” (Phil. 2.2) we may proceed to communion in the divine Eucharist, wherein lies the fullness of the unity of the Church of Christ.
This journey toward achieving full communion, as enjoyed by our Churches in common during the first millennium, has already commenced with the dialogue of love and truth, and continues by God’s grace despite occasional difficulties. It is with vigilant concern and unceasing prayer that we follow the process of the ongoing official Theological Dialogue between our two Churches, co-chaired by Your Eminence, and now embarking upon the examination of critical ecclesiological issues, such as the question of primacy in general and that of the bishop of Rome in particular. Everyone is aware that this thorny issue proved a scandalous contention in the course of relations between our two Churches, which is why the eradication of this impediment from among us will surely greatly facilitate our journey toward unity. We are, therefore, convinced that the study of Church history during the first millennium, at least with regard to this matter, will also provide the touchstone for the further evaluation of later developments during the second millennium, which unfortunately led our Churches to greater estrangement and intensified our division.
In a world shattered by contrasts and conflicts, the exchange of peaceful and constructive dialogue constitutes the only way of achieving reconciliation and unity. In the apostolic passage read during this morning’s Divine Liturgy, the Apostles are promoted as an example of utter humility in imitation of the crucified Lord: “When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.” (1 Cor. 4. 12-13) If this ethos of humility must prevail in the relations of the faithful toward the persecutors of the Church, how much more so should it prevail in the relations among Christians themselves! The peaceful resolution of existing differences in inter-Christian relations by no means implies estrangement from truth. For truth does not fear dialogue; on the contrary, truth employs dialogue as a means of becoming acceptable even to those who for various reasons reject it. Hatred and fanaticism provoke the defensive entrenchment of each side in the blind persistence on its own positions and opinions, while consolidating differences and obliterating all hope of reconciliation. Such an attitude is absolutely unrelated to the spirit of the Christ’s Gospel and the apostolic example. For only by “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4.15) do we truly speak the truth, just as only by loving truthfully (2 John 1) do we truly love. A dialogue imbued by a sincere spirit of humility guarantees this blessed combination, which comprises the only divinely-inspired way for all those who wish to be imitators of the Apostles. (1 Cor. 4.16)
It is this spirit of sincere and loving dialogue that the Church of Christ itself is today called to implement in its relations among divided Christians, while at the same time proclaiming it to all persons of good will, wherever they happen to be. We know from bitter experience that religion can easily be misused as a banner of fanaticism and conflict among people. We have personally emphasized on numerous occasions that war in the name of religion is war against religion. This is why interfaith dialogue is particularly mandatory in our age, without entailing any compromise in one’s religious convictions. It is this dialogue that is encouraged and cultivated by our Ecumenical Patriarchate, which contributes in this way to the consolidation of peace in our contemporary world.
Your Eminence Cardinal Kasper and your honorable entourage,
Through the order established by the holy Ecumenical Councils, Divine Providence has assigned to the Church of this City the ministry of serving as the first-throne of the Orthodox Church, bearing the responsibility of coordinating and expressing the unanimity of the local holy Orthodox Churches. With this responsibility, then, we are now working diligently in preparation for the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, by activating the appropriate preconciliar instruments. Thus, only last June, we successfully convened the 4th Preconciliar Panorthodox Consultation, which dealt with the question of the Orthodox Diaspora; soon, we shall convene the Preparatory Commission for the study and preparation of other issues for the Great Council. The purpose of this entire endeavor is to forge the unity of the Orthodox Church, so that “with one mind and one heart” it may contribute to the witness of the Gospel in our modern world. In this effort and overall variously difficult service, the Church of Constantinople always considers the support of the Old Church of Rome as invaluable, and so with great love we also direct our thought there at this moment.
Greeting you – and through you, him who sent you here, namely our beloved brother in the Lord – with a sacred embrace, we pray that the Lord our God, through the intercessions of the Holy glorious and First-Called Apostle Andrew, will protect His Church from all evil, guiding it to the fulfillment of His divine will.
Welcome here among us, beloved brothers!