By His All-Holiness
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
To the Delegation of the Church of Rome
At the Thronal Feast of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
(November 30, 2011)
Your Eminence, Kurt Cardinal Koch, and honorable delegation representing His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, the Bishop of senior Rome and beloved brother in the Lord and the Church that he leads,
You are most welcome in our midst!
Once again, our good Lord renders us worthy to celebrate the sacred and venerable commemoration of the first-called among the Apostles, St. Andrew, founder and patron of our most holy Church of Constantinople. Our joy on this occasion is additionally increased at the presence and participation yet again of the most holy and dearest Church of senior Rome through your delegation. Therefore, we express our fervent gratitude to His Holiness Pope Benedict for sending you here and for this gesture of honor and love toward our Church. We consider it an immense blessing from God that this tradition of exchanging visits of official delegations from our two Churches for our respective patronal feasts was established and faithfully preserved many decades ago. For in this manner, our fraternal bond is symbolically manifested and greatly strengthened together with our desire for their unity in Christ to advance still further in adherence to the will of the Founder and sole Head of the Church, our Lord Jesus Christ, “that all may be one.” (John 17.21)
In the gospel reading of the Divine Liturgy that we have just celebrated, the Apostle Andrew, whom we commemorate today, is filled with such jubilation and enthusiasm upon encountering the Lord, that he hastens to find his brother Simon in order to announce to him the great news – indeed, the most significant news in the entire history of humankind – that: “We have found the Messiah, which means the Christ.” (John 1.42) This announcement is followed – immediately and without any delay – by the encounter of the two brothers with Jesus, during which the Lord looks upon Simon and gives him the name “Cephas, which means Peter.” (John 1.43) From that moment, Peter becomes the Chief of the Apostles, and the Church is built on the rock of his faith. Thus, the encounter of Andrew and Peter with Jesus becomes the inauguration of the history and realization of the Church. The two brothers are henceforth united not by blood alone, but by something much more significant: the common confession that “we have found the Messiah,” namely the Christ.
The expectation of the Messiah encapsulated the whole meaning of the history of Israel. Through this expectation, successive generations of Jews were nourished, drawing from it hope and faith for the future. It is this expectation that Christ came to fulfill not only for the Jews, but for all of humanity, by establishing the Church, wherein according to the Apostle Paul “there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female.” (Gal. 3.28) The common confession of the two brothers, Andrew and Peter, that “we have found the Messiah” constitutes the fulfillment of the expectations of all humankind, of every human being, irrespective of race, color, gender, nationality, and every other attribute. It also comprises the fulfillment of the expectations of today’s people, who do not cease to search for the Messiah.
Contemporary human history is replete with false “Messiahs,” who pledge bliss but are unable to keep their promises. People are deeply disappointed in our time by those who promise much and who assume responsibility for managing their problems. This is clearly and sensationally evident today in the rapid and widespread economic crisis, which is largely the result of inefficient, unequal and unjust management of wealth produced by human enterprise, its concentration in the hands of the few, as well as erroneous and selfish forms of financial and social politics. In an age when all types of contemporary Messiahs pledge the rise of peoples’ living standards, instead the number of homeless and needy is rising, most especially in economically developed societies. It is abundantly evident that humanity has not yet found the Messiah and is still seeking Him.
This renders the Church’s obligation extremely urgent. The words “we have found the Messiah,” which are announced so enthusiastically by Andrew to Peter, must also be heard in our day. This is the supreme calling of the Church. However, in order for the Church to fulfill this imperative, the two Brother Apostles must again proclaim their confession together. The Churches of Rome and Constantinople are called to rediscover the common voice of the two Apostles, the common confession f faith, and their “fraternal bond” in the body and blood of Christ, so that the world may believe in the Messiah, whom the two founders of their Churches “had found.”
It is precisely for this purpose that the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church have in the last decades conducted the official Theological Dialogue of love and truth, whose responsibility is borne by the Mixed International Commission under the co-chairmanship of Your Eminence. The work of this Commission is far from simple because the problems that have accumulated over many centuries as a result of the mutual estrangement and, at times, contention between the two Churches demand careful study and deliberation. However, with the guidance of the Comforter, good will on both sides and recognition of our obligation before the Lord and humankind will bring about the desired outcome, when the Lord of the vineyard so judges and pleases.
On our part, as we vigilantly and prayerfully follow the progress of the Theological Dialogue, we express from this Ecumenical Throne our commendation and gratitude for those who labor and toil for its success. May the Lord’s blessing accompany the entire duration of this Dialogue for the fulfillment of His holy will.
With these reflections and sentiments, we welcome you, Your Eminence, and your honorable entourage. Once again, we warmly thank His Holiness, our brother Bishop of senior Rome for sending you here in order that your Church may participate in the joy and celebration of our Thronal Feast. May the grace and blessing of our loving God be with our Churches and His troubled world, through the intercessions of St. Andrew the first-called of the Apostles, whom we commemorate today, and his Apostle brother St. Peter, and of all the Saints. Amen.