BY HIS ALL-HOLINESS
ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW
At the Patriarchal Audience
For the Members of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy
(March 3, 2013)
|Honorable and beloved Orthodox Members of Parliament,|
Members of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy and their distinguished colleagues,
Dear children in the Lord,
Today we prayed together during the Divine Liturgy in our venerable Patriarchal Church of St. George the Great Martyr and Trophy-Bearer. We were raised to heaven and nourished by the heavenly bread and wine, which God’s grace offered to us. We were inspired by the vision of perfect polity.
Now we find ourselves once again in the routine world of human cares and concerns, but we are called to transform this world in accordance with the vision with which our hearts have been sweetened by this heavenly polity.
For many years, we have followed the journey and development of your organization, the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy, realized through occasional encounters of Orthodox Members of Parliament in Orthodox and non-Orthodox countries, as you work, care and provide “policy” and “goals” based on the Orthodox Christian worldview, which benefit and assist the institutions to which you were called, “by popular vote,” to serve and bear witness to the truth. All this with the aim of improving the spiritual, moral and material welfare of our fellow human beings, thereby also entering – whether willingly or unwillingly – into the domain and responsibility of every local, militant Orthodox Church. The Ecumenical Patriarchate blessed your initiative and effort from the very outset; and it follows your progress, gladly confirming that you are experiencing Orthodoxy primarily from the perspective of human rights and religious freedom as aspects of Orthodox life, which the Orthodox Church – as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church has especially promoted, taught, supported and endeavored to impose from the earliest beginnings of its service in the world and which constitute its genuine essence.
Therefore, it is with great joy that we welcome you on behalf of the holy Mother and Great Church of Christ of Constantinople to the see, where you have arrived to hold a seminar on the subject of “the social dimension of the monotheistic religions.”
It is a fact that, in practice, the social dimension of each religion is expressed through its faithful. In this regard, the degree to which the social dimension of any religion is lived vividly or poorly depends on the religious experience of each generation of its faithful. The Christian Church has always, from the very first years of its establishment, vibrantly experienced the unity and community of its faithful. The Apostle Paul organized collections among the Christians of various cities in support of the Christians of Jerusalem, who were in great need. Many of our Church Fathers created welfare and charitable agencies to assist the poor and weak, often without any religious discrimination. The most widely known initiatives include the “Vasileias” of St. Basil the Great, the ministry of St. John the Merciful as Patriarch of Alexandria, the multitude of charitable institutions in the Eastern Roman Empire, and particularly in this city. Many of these initiatives continue to flourish, despite the adventures of history, providing services to those in need without any religious discrimination.
However, still more generally, the Christian world of every doctrine and confession is profoundly imbued by the sentiment of obligation toward supporting our fellow human beings. This sentiment should find widespread application particularly during the present period of serious financial crisis when we are called to bring consolation to our brothers and sisters that are in dire need. With this in mind, we declared this year as “The Year of Global Solidarity.”
At the same time, beloved children in the Lord, your presence here gives us great joy and inspires us to continue our ministry, burning as frail candles of Orthodoxy, because we learn from every corner of the planet the hope that people derive from the Orthodox faith and the expectations that they have of the Mother Church of Constantinople. We are personally and wholeheartedly grateful to each and every one of you for your presence here and for the pleasure of communicating with you face to face.
In this regard, we would like to underline – first of all to ourselves, but afterward to you as well – the obligation that we Orthodox have throughout the world to preserve the unity and identity of our Orthodox Church.
Our most holy Orthodox Church has new perspectives and responsibilities in our age. Liberated finally for the most part from the trials of atheistic regimes, it is called to revitalize its strength and advance active and united, in order to deposit its witness and service throughout the world. This has also been expressed in recent years as a common desire and commitment during our interpersonal relations with brother First Hierarchs and other bishops of the Orthodox Churches, both in their respective sees and elsewhere, as well as with numerous other bishops and clergy, monastics and lay theologians, who exercise their esteemed ministries all over the world, but especially in the Assemblies (Synaxeis) of Orthodox First Hierarchs held here on the one hand, and assemblies of the First Hierarchs of the ancient Patriarchates of the Middle East and the Church of Cyprus on the other hand, but also during the preparatory committees and preconciliar consultations organized at Chambésy (Geneva) in preparation for the Holy and Great Council – all aimed at convening in the near future our Panorthodox Synod here at our Very City, in order that we may, as Orthodox Pastors, in a collegial manner, jointly confront the vital contemporary issues faced by our faithful and the entire Church.
In this spirit, then, we also paternally greet and bless the Interorthodox activities of your Interparliamentary working group, as well as the Orthodox members of the international academic community, who demonstrate an evangelical zeal, and all those who by word, through dialogue and in writing confess the living God in an Orthodox way or who serve His needy children in a charitable way.
Moreover, in the same context, we would like to highlight the contemporary European vocation and ministry of Orthodoxy within the European Union. This is an Orthodox mission and contribution, which must also teach others who love Europe, that a necessary, albeit painful accommodation and inner transformation is achievable, and that no one can enter the wedding banquet without the appropriate garment – which means that the garment cannot be covered with the bloodstain of victims of injustice and other discrimination.
Indeed, it is not appropriate to the ethos and mindset of Orthodoxy as a whole, as Churches, or as individual groups, to cause fronts or problems in Europe or elsewhere, as some people may aspire or fear or blame us for doing. Fronts and problems are created by those confronting adversaries. Nevertheless, we approach not with injustice, but always with love, offering ourselves entirely to the loving and conscious service of the European and global needs, whose sole object and subject is “humanity alone,” namely God’s creation, by offering the historical experience and eternal witness of the Orthodox people, as well as their values and faith. And we serve the loneliness of humanity, just as St. Symeon the New Theologian describes in his prayer to the Lord: “Come, You who are alone, to me who am alone; for, you discern my loneliness.”
Furthermore, we repeat at this time that we Christians must first respect and promote sincere and honest dialogue at all times, both in our daily conversations with one another and in our formal encounters and exchanges.
Finally, we are convinced that the keen sense of the social dimension of our faith, and the personal sensitivity of each of us before our fellow human beings, who are distressed by the current crisis, even beyond the clear theological principles that we just have outlined, will guide you in your deliberations commencing this afternoon, in order to do whatever you can, to open the stores filled with the goods of the wealthy, so that they may nourish the poor. Your enthusiasm to do good, must become so fervent and energetic, as to provoke acceptance and imitation among followers of all religions. Humanity must sense the solidarity of all people. Let it be so.