Toast οn the occasion of the Lunch in his honour Hosted by His Excellency Mr. Dimitrios Kourkoulas, Ambassador of the European Union to Bulgaria(27 October 2004)
|Your Excellency Mr. Prime Minister,|
Your Excellency Mr. Ambassador,
Reverend Clergy, Your Excellencies, esteemed and beloved fellow guests,
It is with heartfelt joy that we are participating in this meal of love, which is being cordially given in honour of our humble person by His Excellency and beloved Mr. Dimitrios Kourkoulas, Ambassador of the European Union in Bulgaria. We would like to express the great gratitude we feel for this courteous hospitality and the kind words of our friend His Excellency, as well as for the opportunity to communicate personally with the distinguished guests.
The birthday celebration of our beloved Brother in Christ His Beatitude Patriarch Maximos of Bulgaria, has once more guided our steps towards the Holy Church of Bulgaria, beloved first-born daughter of our Holy Mother, the Great Church of Christ. We have come to congratulate our brother Patriarch and to convey to him, with every honour and sincerity, words of praise and appreciation in the Lord, but also many words of thanks, both on a personal level and in the name of the Ecumenical Throne. Because from his youth he served the Holy Orthodox Church in Bulgaria. He served the Church in difficult times, suffering himself first through his flock, in order to keep the lamp of faith lighted.
We all know how hasty man is, unfortunately, to express judgements and condemnations. We run of the judgement of history, and above all, that of God, the all-righteous judge. And in our haste we sin, because we usually confuse criteria of evaluation, and reverse the values and priorities. For example, we forget how great is the sin of dividing the Church and the people, and how much damage is caused by stirringup passions.
Especially at a time when great dangers and high interests impose the need to strengthen understanding, consensus, mutual tolerance, forgiveness, reconciliation and mobilisation to avert threats and to achieve high goals, beyond all self-interest.
Such times we believe are being experienced today by the friendly Country of Bulgaria, by the Balkan region, by our Orthodox Church. The hard-working and diligent people of Bulgaria, guided by their wise civil and political leadership, have made significant progress and have approached fulfilment of the criteria for full membership in the new community of the peoples of Europe, which is worthily represented in this Country by a Greek A. Kourkoulas.
Our Orthodox Church and especially the Ecumenical Patriarchate has always been in favour of peaceful and harmonious coexistence for all people and all nations, irrespective of their language and culture, and irrespective of their religious and political convictions. Because all people bear within them the image of God and we are consubstantial and equal between ourselves, and for the most part we Orthodox conduct ourselves similarly.
The enlargement of the European Union towards Eastern Europe, where the overwhelming majority of Orthodox people live, constitutes a historical challenge and invitation. It is a challenge because every time a people makes the passage to a new reality, many obvious things must be abandoned. This passage entails sacrifices and adjustments, which are at times very difficult. This also holds for the Country we live in. Our position and that of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is known and remains the same. We have said on numerous occasions that all countries in the geographical region of Europe and some others that are neighbours geographically and culturally, including Turkey, the country we live in, can and must, under the known criteria, conditions and adjustments, become members of the European Union, in order to consolidate mutual understanding, peaceful cooperation, and ethnic and racial reconciliation between peoples who were in the past engaged in painful conflict. We hope that Turkey, too, will meet these criteria: the unhindered and unaffected functioning of democracy, respect for the human rights of all citizens, and especially of ethnic and religious minorities, and whatever other condition is required for active participation in this new European structure. This last is the great invitation. The next phase is addressed first of all to Bulgaria and Romania, two countries which are traditionally Orthodox. On many occasions we have emphasised the justified and necessary expansion of the European Union to this area. Without the participation and contribution of the peoples of Eastern Europe, Orthodox in their majority, European integration and completion is inconceivable. Therefore, the present course of the enlargement of Europe eastwards, is a step in the right direction. And an opportunity is provided for the common witness of Orthodoxy and for the active participation of the Orthodox peoples in shaping the new social and spiritual reality of Europe. To achieve the above requires vigilance, compassion, mutual understanding and the cooperation of all Orthodox people. God has blessed the Orthodox peoples with rich spiritual gifts, which we will be happy to share with rest of the European people, giving and receiving and progressing together in peace and fraternity.
Concluding with these wishes on the occasion of the birthday celebration of our brother Patriarch we call upon you to raise our glasses in a toast to his health and longevity, and to that of our fellow guest and friend His Excellency the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, and also to our most beloved host, the Ambassador of the European Union to Bulgaria, to family members and collaborators and all guests and to the progress and prosperity of the friendly people of Bulgaria and all the people of Europe.