GREETING by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW at the Formal Reception for the Thronal Feast (November 30, 2007).
|Your Eminence Cardinal Walter Kasper, beloved members of the Delegation of the Church of Rome,|
Distinguished diplomats and community leaders,
It is a particular joy for us to welcome you to the Phanar, being the spiritual center of unity for the Orthodox Church throughout the world, on this auspicious occasion of the Thronal Feast of our Church, which was established by the First-Called of the Apostles, St. Andrew, whose memory we keep today.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate places great significance on such events, namely on the exchange of formal visits and the reception of community leaders, including academics and journalists, because we are convinced that our times call especially for such powerful symbolical gestures in order to heal tragic divisions and unfortunate rifts created through the centuries to the present age.
In the spiritual teaching of our tradition, sin results in fragmentation, while division is caused by diabolical forces. Indeed, the very word “diabolical” implies separation and scattering. And the word “symbolical” implies reconciliation and unification. This means that what has been divided through misconception, misunderstanding and miscommunication can only be healed through personal encounter, open dialogue, and theological clarification.
Therefore, when an Orthodox delegation travels to the Church of Rome, or when His Holiness Pope Benedict appoints a similar delegation to attend the foundational Feast of the Throne of Constantinople on the day of its Patron Saint, these visits are beyond a matter merely of politics, diplomacy or public relations. In our mind and heart, such visits are profoundly spiritual and even sacred. For the healing of division can occur only when people are prepared to meet face-to-face with one another, when people dare to stand beside others in a spirit of worship, and when people accept to communicate with each other in an honest and joyful exchange. In the words of the late Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras: “Come, let us look one another in the eyes!”
One of the principal issues related to the diverse global divisions – indeed, even the wars that plague our world and the destruction of our planet’s natural resources – is the fact that people will not assume they are directly involved in such problems. So often, as human beings, we either avoid or else deny our personal responsibility with regard to ecclesiastical schisms or matters of social justice. According to the well-known Sayings of the Desert Fathers, “the sign of a mature person is always to assume responsibility for actions that occur.”
The truth is that we cannot hide or run from our participation in world affairs. We are – all of us – somehow responsible and undoubtedly involved in events that unfold before our eyes in an age of globalization. If only we can accept to face these problems together, then – with the healing and saving grace of God – we shall be able to provide solutions for the benefit of all humankind and for the sake of future generations.
Therefore, dear brothers and distinguished guests, this formal reception is much more than simply a social event; it is a gathering that reflects our sincere intention and fervent prayer that the human society may be reunited, that our Churches, your Eminence, may be reconciled, and that our world may be healed. We are obliged – both by the divine will and by the Word of God – to come together in order to face one another in fellowship and to face the divisive problems of our world together. For, when we can discover in each other the image of God, when we can relate to the least of our brothers and sisters as to Christ Himself, and when we can discern in the entire world the very face of God, then we shall be blessed to enjoy and “inherit the kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world.” (Matt. 25.34)
We welcome all of you wholeheartedly to the holy and historical Center of the Orthodox Church and to the Great Mother Church of Christ. God bless you.