By His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
To the 11th World Congress of Consuls
(Istanbul, November 18-22, 2015)
|Distinguished congress organizers,|
Eminent consuls from throughout the world,
It is a unique privilege and honor to be with members of the 11th World Congress of Consuls, which has resolved to present our modesty with its highest award of the “Gold Star” that recognizes the diverse efforts of global leaders and heads of state. We are delighted to accept this award as a tribute to the sacred service and global ministry of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which has long embraced the vocation and responsibility to create bridges among religions and peoples of the world.
We are especially grateful to the current director of your organization, the Honorable Consul General Arnold Foote of Jamaica, who has successfully overseen and guided your activities and assemblies since 2006. This is not the first time that your federation is meeting in Turkey; nor is it the first time that we have had the pleasure of meeting with your leaders and members.
The World Federation of Consuls is the product of a group of visionaries, who were courageous enough to imagine how the experience and wisdom of consular authorities, who deal on a daily basis with “real problems” of “real people” in order to inform and influence procedures and even policies of international governments and organizations. This is a meaningful and momentous enterprise, especially in light of rapid changes in our world in such areas as climate change and sustainable development, technology and economy, as well as diplomacy and conflict resolution.
We recognize that we are among prominent leaders and diplomats. And we salute the fact that you have dedicated your meeting this year to the crucial subject of “bridging the world.” Building bridges is precisely the historical mission and imperative mandate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
For we acknowledge our vocation and responsibility at once to build bridges between the people of God as well as between humankind and the natural environment. We preach that we must respect our fellow human beings as brothers and sisters “created in the image and likeness of God.” Yet, at the same time, we proclaim that we must respect the earth that we inhabit as a unique gift created out of love by a living God.
Abiding by and adhering to these two sacred mandates and fundamental principles means that the way that we relate to human beings throughout the world is intimately reflected in the way that we treat the natural resources of the planet. The sensitivity with which we handle the natural environment clearly mirrors the sacredness that we reserve for the divine. This is a connection rarely perceived or comprehended by most. However, truth is that the way we treat our planet and other people directly reveals and affects the way that we pray to God. In our worldview and understanding, there can be no distinction between contemplation of God, concern for human welfare and concern for ecological preservation.
Building bridges is what we do when we organize ecological summits or symposia on an international, inter-religious and interdisciplinary level. Precisely because we are bringing together people from all corners of the planet, from diverse faith communities and a broad range of professions (such as scientists, clergy, politicians, media, and activists), with a common goal and vision, namely to preserve the biodiversity and promote the sustainability of our world’s natural resources.
Building bridges is what we do when we meet and converse with leaders and believers of all religious backgrounds, such as we have done for the last thirty years in organizing interfaith dialogues with Judaism and Islam throughout the world, in places such as Jordan and Bahrain, Britain and Belgium, as well as Greece and Turkey. And the topics of our scholarly discussions and spiritual deliberations have included such themes as “peace and justice,” “pluralism and cooperation,” “youth and education,” “tradition and continuity,” as well as “religious liberty and rights.”
Finally, building bridges is what we do when we pray in the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George here at the Phanar, when we travel to all parts of the world for pastoral visits, or at the invitation of religious and state authorities, as well as when we sign statements with Pope Francis of Rome or Archbishop Justin of Canterbury, and when we advocate for the fundamental rights of all people and all religions – for the right to religious freedom, the right to religious education, and the right to religious worship. After all, in each of these cases, we are ultimately standing in support and solidarity with the most vulnerable of citizens, the most marginalized of society, and the most wounded of victims. And this is what we consider as being the principal and paramount role of every religious leader.
Dear and distinguished friends, once again we express our sincerest gratitude for this invaluable honor, which we shall treasure with great joy. It will serve for us as an affirmation of your vision as well as a reminder of what we are all called to do – each of us from the position where we have been assigned to perform our commitments with faithfulness to the people that we serve for the common good and for the glory of God.
May God bless you and your families; and may God strengthen you in your high duties.