ADDRESS By His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Luncheon Hosted by the NCCK (Seoul, Korea, December 4, 2018)
Reverend Dr. Lee Hong-jung, General Secretary of the NCCK,
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It is with great joy that we accepted your invitation to visit you in person so that we may sit together at this common meal of love and fellowship that you have so cordially and warmly offered to us. We extend to you our sincere gratitude and heartfelt appreciation, and we embrace all of you in the love of the Lord.
Please allow us to share with you a few personal thoughts regarding Ecumenical Dialogue. As it is well known, the centuries-old, martyric Church of Constantinople played a leading role in the Ecumenical Movement, and today, still continues to lead the way in the inter-Christian dialogue of Love and Truth as the First Throne of Orthodoxy.
The inter-Orthodox committees for dialogue with the Roman Catholic, Protestant and Anglican Churches constitute an integral part of the direct interests of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
As a member of the Holy and Great Church of Christ, we have participated, for a number of years, in various Commissions, as well as worked to promote Theological Dialogue between Churches.
We engage and shall continue to engage in dialogue, because we firmly believe that through the sincere exchange of ideas, we will reach the desired result of “the union of all.” And thus, the Lord’s desire of “that they may be one” (John 17:11) will become a tangible reality.
For that very reason, at the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, which convened on the island of Crete in 2016, we redefined the relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world. The decisions of the Holy and Great Council, the text of which can be found in the recent edition of the Publishing House of the Orthodox Metropolis of Korea, “Orthodox Editions,” emphasizes that:
The Orthodox Church has a common awareness of the necessity of conducting inter-Christian theological dialogue. It therefore believes that this dialogue should always be accompanied by witnesses to the world through acts expressing mutual understanding and love, which express the “ineffable joy” of the Gospel (1 Pt 1: 8), eschewing every act of proselytism, uniatism, or other provocative act of inter-confessional competition. In this spirit, the Orthodox Church considers it important for all Christians, inspired by common fundamental principles of the Gospel, to attempt to offer with eagerness and solidarity a response to the thorny problems of the contemporary world based, on the prototype of the new man in Christ.” (Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World, 23)
My beloved Brothers and Sisters, returning to the Christian unity of the One and indivisible Church of the first millennium must become a constant and sought after goal. This significant issue should be a part of our earnest and heartfelt daily prayer. It must become our ceaseless struggle in order that we may not remain content with division, and so that we may not ignore the present situation that was brought on by the Great Schism so many centuries ago. We cannot be at peace with this. Unfortunately, though, many Christians have become accustomed to the reality of division and are no longer interested in the healing process of this problem of isolation. Regrettably, some even believe that the creation of schisms and current Christian pluralism, which has made us reach the deplorable point of not knowing how many Christian denominations—formally or informally—exist in the world, is “better” than the apostolic unity of the Ancient Church! With this reasoning, however, instead of journeying towards sacred unity—in accordance with our Lord’s will—and displaying our Christian witness to the world, we become further torn apart from each other, thus, further scandalizing the world around us.
Our eminent predecessor, the great Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras—who during the years of his famous Patriarchal ministry promoted Ecumenical Dialogue with great courage and determination—used to say: “My brothers, let us look at each other in the eyes.” For so many years, though, Christians of various denominations have forgotten one another’s face and, therefore, it is clear that we have not heeded his words.
In our effort to continue the tradition that we have inherited—through our journeys in the world, our participation in inter-Christian and inter-religious dialogues, and in our daily communication with people of every religion and social status—proclaim and say that without dialogue, no brotherly relationship can exist; without interpersonal communication, we cannot apply the commandment of love; and without humble behavior, we cannot have the Grace of God.
Concluding our brief address, we wish to congratulate you, having been informed, of course, of your excellent cooperation with the Orthodox Metropolis of Korea, which is a full member of the NCCK, and of the fact that His Eminence Metropolitan Ambrosios of Korea recently served as President of the NCCK. Because of this, you are undoubtedly pioneers, seeing as how for the first time ever an Orthodox Metropolitan became the President of a similar Christian forum.
We would like to assure you that you will have the support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in everything good and sacred that you promote through the NCCK for peace in the Korean Peninsula, for the unity of Christians in Korea, for the protection of the Environment, and for the spiritual progress of our beloved Korean Brothers and Sisters in Christ.
We once again thank all of you from the depths of our heart.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. Amen.