Address by His All Holiness
ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW
at the Thronal Feast of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (November 30, 2010).
|Your Eminence, Cardinal Kurt Koch, with your honorable entourage, representing His Holiness the Bishop of senior Rome and our beloved brother in the Lord, Pope Benedict, and the Church that he leads,|
It is with great joy that we greet your presence at the Thronal Feast of our Most Holy Church of Constantinople and express gratitude to our brother in the Lord, Pope Benedict XVI, who sent you here, for his gracious fraternal gesture through you to participate in this festive celebration of the sacred commemoration of the founder of the Church in Byzantium, St. Andrew the First-Called of the Apostles. It is many years now since the establishment of an exchange of formal delegations at the respective patronal feasts of our two Churches as an indication of the brotherly bonds of love and honor among us, and we rejoice that this wonderful tradition is preserved once again this year.
We especially salute the presence of Your Eminence among us for the first time as representative of His Holiness, congratulating you on assuming the high post of the presidency in the Pontifical Council for the promotion of Christian unity, as well as on your recent elevation to the position and honor of Cardinal. We deeply appreciate the broad theological knowledge and nobility of Your Eminence’s character, together with your attention to the sacred cause of the promotion of Christian unity. And we look forward to your cooperation with our Ecumenical Patriarchate for the further enhancement of the fraternal relations between our Churches to the benefit of the promotion of unity, for which our Lord prayed to His Father immediately prior to His passion.
We note with particular joy that this year marked the completion of fifty years of life and activity for the Pontifical Council for Christian unity, over which Your Eminence now presides. Our thought turns to the late Pope John XXIII, who founded this Council in 1960 originally in the form of a Secretariat, together with the convocation of the Second Vatican Council, whose bold historical decisions paved the way for the participation of the Roman Catholic in the effort toward the reconciliation of Christian unity. Among the fruits of this historical initiative on the part of the late Pope, the development of fraternal relations between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches retains a prominent place. These relations were forged by the great ecclesiastical leaders, the late Pope Paul VI and our own predecessor Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, while they were further sustained and strengthened by their successors, Pope John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios. Thanks to the tireless endeavors of your Council for Christian unity, and in particular of its deceased pioneer presidents, Cardinals Augustino Bea and Johannes Willebrands, assisted by such specialists in the history and life of the Orthodox Churches as the late Bishop Pierre Duprey and Mgr Eleuterio Fortino, relations among our Churches were cultivated still further through mutual respect and brotherly love. The same relations were enriched with due care by the predecessors of Your Eminence in the presidency of the Council, Cardinals Edward Cassidy and Walter Kasper, supported by their capable coworkers. To all of these, we express our fervent thanks for everything that they achieved in toil for the restoration of full communion among our Churches.
The context of these fraternal relations saw the creation and continuation over the last thirty years of the official theological dialogue between our Churches. This is because unity in love is of no benefit unless it is simultaneously a unity in faith and truth. Therefore, “speaking the truth in love,” according to the exhortation of the Apostle (Eph. 4.15), we maintain this theological dialogue at the unanimous decision of all Autocephalous Orthodox Churches in order to examine, in love and sincerity, the theological matters that both unite and still divide, “until we all arrive at the unity of faith,” according to the exhortation of the same Apostle. (Eph. 4.13)
In following with increased interest the development of this theological dialogue from our Ecumenical Patriarchate, we pray for its success, especially during its present phase when controversial subjects, which in the past proved cause of acute conflict among our Churches, are being discussed.
The recent plenary meeting of the dialogue Commission in Vienna, under the joint presidency of Your Eminence and our most venerable brother and coworker, His Eminence Metropolitan John of Pergamon, revealed the existing difficulties but also the disposition and decision of all members of the Commission to overcome these difficulties with love as well as with faithfulness to the doctrine and life of the Church transmitted to us from the first millennium in order to advance to their resolution.
In today celebrating the sacred memory of St. Andrew the First-Called of the Apostles, we cannot also turn our attention to his brother, St. Peter, chief of the Apostles. These two brothers were not just related by blood but especially by the infinitely more significant bond with Christ and communion in Christ. And they preserved this bond of communion in Christ unimpaired for an entire millennium, while the Churches that derived from the preaching and martyrdom of these Apostles, namely the Churches of Rome and Constantinople, are obliged once more to regain this bond of communion in order to prove ourselves worthy successors of their deposit.
In the gospel reading proclaimed during today’s Divine Liturgy, we heard that Andrew personally encountered Christ and hastened to introduce Him to Peter as well. Philip does the same with Nathanael, broadening in this way the circle of those in communion with Christ, until the apostolic message reaches all people. Thus, the Church of Christ is demonstrated “apostolic,” conveying Christ from generation to generation and from place to place “that the world may believe” (John 17.21) in Him as redeemer and savior.
Even today, facing manifold impasses, the world seeks redemption and salvation. However, those who preach Christ in separation from one another cannot persuade the world that “we have found the Messiah, which is interpreted as the Christ.” (John 1.42) Faithful to the authentic and authoritative message of the Apostles, we are called “with one mouth and one heart” to transmit this message to the contemporary world, discerning the concerns and embracing the problems of the world.
With these thoughts, we welcome you as representatives of senior Rome with love and esteem, and once more thank His Holiness, our brother, who sent you, for “the labor of love” (1 Thess. 1.3) that guided your steps here.
“To our God and Father be the glory to the ages of ages. Amen.”