|Your Eminence, Most Reverend and Beloved Brother in Christ|
Walter Cardinal Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council
for the Promotion of Christian Unity, and the Honourable Members
of the Delegation from the Sister Church of Rome,
Your Eminences and Beloved Brothers in Christ,
Illustrious and Beloved Archons,
Your Excellencies of the Diplomatic Corps,
Dear Distinguished Guests, sharing in our joy,
Dear Sons and Daughters in the Lord,
We cordially thank you for coming here and sharing in our joy and thereby increasing it. Indeed, joy grows greater when there are more to share in it, just as sorrow diminishes when its burden is shared by the friends of the sorrowing. We extend an especial greeting to the Delegation of the Most Holy Pope of Rome, Benedict XVI, which is joining us now at this reception for the first time after His Holiness’ accession to the supreme office of the Roman Catholic Church.
Our feast is a religious feast, just as our Patriarchate is a religious institution. It has been called (and it has been) the Ecumenical Patriarchate from the earliest Christian centuries, and this it is because it has the ecclesiastical care of Orthodox Christians all over the globe, should they reside beyond the territorial boundaries of local Patriarchal or autocephalous Churches. Whereof, beyond its Dioceses within Turkey, it maintains Archdioceses and Dioceses in Europe, the Americas, the Far East, and Oceania. Furthermore it is accorded recognition by all Orthodox Churches as holding pre-eminent status amongst them. This means that it has a certain coordinative authority, such as in convoking inter-orthodox Councils, or attending to the replenishment of vacancies within their bodies, when they themselves are unable to fill them on their own, as had been the case with the Orthodox Church of Albania when it stood deprived of its prelates; it also has certain other purviews such as in enjoining unity, or the faithful observance of doctrine, et cetera. It does not, however, at its own initiative, interfere with their internal administration.
According to the tendency that prevails in western Countries (and those that follow their example), a state, without being indifferent to the religious condition of its peoples, will not interfere in the internal affairs of the various religions within its polity, for it respects their self-governance and, as a rule, remains tolerant. In some other Countries, however, state administration impinges on religious issues to various degrees and with diverse objectives as the case may be. It is an undeniable fact that, whether with state support, or on state sufferance, or even against the state’s reaction, religious reality does exert its influence over major portions of the populace, and determines significant factors in the social life of all peoples.
We, as Ecumenical Patriarchate, do not become involved in politics. We do however maintain our Christian convictions, for it is our religious duty so to do: convictions which redound on the social situation of the various peoples and seek an amelioration of the circumstances of human life. We advocate, for instance, equality of men and women and their equitable treatment before the law, without being heedless of the distinct ordering of the roles that each gender fulfils on account of its natural attributes. We advocate respect for children, such as is due to potentially complete personalities, towards whom we have the paramount duty of assisting them in their normal development and the unfolding of their gifts. We hold slavery to be an unacceptable institution for mankind. We declare that freedom of conscience must be cherished. We regard charity and social welfare as social and personal duties. We believe that everybody has the right to live in a healthy and clean natural environment.
We generally consider respect for human rights to be utterly indispensable. Indeed we believe that general social prosperity, which averts criminality and disturbances on the part of the disenfranchised by abolishing this class, rests on the wise and benevolent handling of unavoidable social disparities.
All of these matters are of course related to politics, but we are not driven by political motives. We are impelled solely by humanitarian considerations and we range ourselves alongside all good efforts undertaken in this respect, and support them wherever they may arise. In such a sense we are gladdened by the European prospects of our Country and support it in its path toward accession, for we believe that through accession to the European Union after the legislative, administrative and spiritual adjustments, not only shall religious freedom be better protected, as well as minority issues be dealt with the more effectively, the prosperity of the Turkish people shall increase.
From the bottom of our heart we wish that these European prospects shall soon be realised, and that our Country shall become a member of the European Union. We have the hope that our fervent desire and our wish, which is the desire and wish of the majority of the Turkish people, shall be fulfilled. May the time be short until the moment when, on another occasion of festive gathering, we shall all welcome the attainment of this good and lofty goal.
We again thank all of you who are honouring us with your presence on our feast day, and we wish all the blessings of God to you.