“The Youth of the Church in the Third Millennium”
“Blessed be Christ our God, who gathered us from the ends of the earth in unity and to the communion of the Holy Spirit”
The Holy in Christ Great Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople has convened from June 18th to 25th, in the Queen of Cities, the first worldwide conference of Orthodox youth with the theme: “The youth of the Church in the Third Millennium.” The Conference was organized in the context of the festive events for the 2000 year anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ.
We the more than 500 participants have gathered “for this” on the feast day of Pentecost representing all jurisdictions of the Ecumenical Throne, the sister Orthodox Churches, Orthodox Theological Schools and Academies, other Christian Churches, International Church oriented organizations, Foundations, and Societies.
1 On the occasion of this Ecumenical Youth Conference, we exchanged our worries for the most important current issues that occupy the minds of the youth. Our Conference took place in the perspective of the Third Millennium, when we will be called to receive from prior generations the baton of responsibility for the future course of our Church.
2 The Church marches throughout history gathered around the Holy Altar where “the breaking of the bread” greets the resurrected Christ, restructures its ethos and tastes the end beforehand (eschata). The eucharistic ethos directs the Church how to proceed throughout the ages and how to manage the grief of the fallen world, with the final goal always being the salvation of mankind. It was therefore natural for us to discuss about the inclination towards the priestly vocation and the monastic dedication, for as these are the utmost expression of the visions and demands for those who desire their whole life to be dedicated to the Love of Christ and to the service to one’s neighbor.
3 We unanimously expressed our voice as for the necessity to save the whole completely of the essential tenets of the Orthodox tradition. Simultaneously we asked for solutions to all the practical issues that the pastoral care of the church is called to face and deal with, while it is obligated to be present in the events of the life of the world in both a dynamic and a metamorphic way, without giving into temptations of the old which shows itself as traditional.
4 Our Conference dealt with the problem that arises from the vocational training of the young and also with the great and recurring global problem of unemployment, which plagues the youth more and more. We shared the joint struggle for our future and promoted what distinguishes the Orthodox youth, which does not succumb to despair, because the young people are inspired by the hope in the providence of God, they rely on prayer and they feel the presence of their fellow brother in Christ. Simultaneously, one struggles for the protection of man’s and woman’s rights in the workplace, and in turn for every young male and female.
5 It was also stressed that for the Christian youth, the profession is not only a means of survival, but also a training ground of virtue and service to our neighbors. It was also expressed that new salary jobs should be created in the church for the young people who can assist in the pastoral, administrative, and communal work of the Church.
6 The sensitivity of the youth to the greater social issues that threaten today’s society and especially the youth, such as AIDS and narcotics was found to be at the center of our concerns. We stressed with emphasis the need for educational and moral fortification of the orthodox youth, from a very young age until they develop in time spiritual “antibodies” in order to combat every destructive threat. Thus we formulated that the loving disposal that should characterize the pastoral stance of the Church toward the victims of this tragic wound of mankind should be projected in “word and deed”. This concern and sensitivity should be driven by the spirit of the Gospel and be practiced with knowledge and understanding of the sociological, medical, bioethical, judicial, and psychological parameters of these problems.
7 The fact that in this Conference of youth participated young people from different countries where different languages are spoken, brought to forefront the importance of the mother tongue for the Greek diaspora. The language as a unique element of a cultural identity of one people, entails a valid position in the preservation of it self-identity. This unique natural element is not necessarily identified with the essence of Orthodoxy.
8 The youth submitted their anxiety for the difficulty in understanding the liturgical texts and simultaneously expressed the reservations for any forced efforts of linguistic kenotomies that could fade the character and the deep content of our liturgical heritage. The preservation of the mother tongue of the Orthodox in the diaspora should not be underestimated, as it constitutes a vital element of conservation of their identity and their relationship with the roots of their cultural heritage.
9 Approaching the vital issue of the relationship of the two sexes, as Orthodox youth we condemned the subtle undermining and the degradation of the most holy elements of the interpersonal relations of man in this life, i.e. love, eros, and marital commitment. Against the destructive phenomenon of immorality and the cheapening of sex to a marketable object of lesser quality, we pose sturdily the assuredness that physical attraction find its true dimensions when its natural magnetism is completed in a loving marriage, where it is elevated into a great mystery “in Christ and in the Church.”
10 As the youth is faces the war and the ever increasing trend of dehumanization we proclaimed our bitterness for the continuous and repeated and unkept promises of the major world powers for peace. The experiences of unjustifiable wars and the onesided interdictions in cases of unjust attacks and hostilities, raised questions in our conscience about the lack or the existence of justice. For these reasons we approach the issue of peace as a whole and worldly query as expressed by the biblical, fatherly, and liturgical use of the term as used in the Church.
11 We unreservedly accept the value of the human person which we place above all demands. Being young we desire and envision peace as a gift of God and as a fruit of the Holy Spirit. We deny religious fundamentalism and the holy wars and present as a solution of the problems that arise between individuals and peoples, dialogue, getting to know one another, and the understanding and respect of their differenciality.
12 Along these lines we proclaimed the desire for peace among people and also between man and nature. This second perspective deals with the ecological problem. The Orthodox trend is not to be solved fragmentally but confronted in a full dimensionate way. The purification of man through liturgical life and the growth of original relationship with the members of the parish entail the assumption of healthy initiatives which awake the individual and shape his collective responsibility for the realization of the problem. On these matters we eagerly adopt with much energy the initiatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate up to date.
13 The corresponding sensitivity we again expressed for other social problems, which arise from the excacerberation of social injustices. As youth we have shown specific sensitivity for human rights, such as basic freedoms, the protection of the human being, and its essential completion in the field of the cultural and social horizons.
14 Specifically, to the theme of the Diaspora, which is a synthesis of many partial problems, we raise our voice in praise towards the sister Orthodox Churches for unity and surpassing their differences. We assure that we will work for this goal. We also assure that we will work with brotherly love and sacrifice from the elevation of the spiritual values, the respect of life, rejoining the institution of family, the restoration of honest relationships with the brothers of other Christian Churches and denominations, the return to the flock for those who have strayed and the establishment of a community of faith and love among all of us. We pray that the Lord of peace will bring to a common meeting the representatives of the Churches and Nations for the quelling of the clashes and the advancement of co- brotherhood and concord.
15 Finally, we the youth who have come from the ends of the earth, here where the heart of Orthodoxy beats, conversing amongst us in a spirit of reconcilliation and “in the bond of love” we submit the following considerations:
15a We consider it our duty to struggle so that our destination towards the Third Millennium will make obvious in every way the unity of our Ecumenical Orthodoxy, which respects the human person, the uniqueness of local traditions and the history of each people.
15b In the spirit of its liturgical unity the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church” is called to render clarity to the prophetic charisma, therefore reminding the people of God that the authentic path of salvation is through repentance.
15c We express to the Head of Orthodoxy, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and to the Holy Synod of the Throne, wholehearted thanks for the decision to call together this historical Conference. The invitation and the abundant hospitality which was bestowed upon us, met our disposition to approach with our sensitivities of the heart and the spirit, the most important current events which occupy our minds. The continual presence among us of His All Holiness, our young hearted Patriarch, fortifies our desire for new efforts, gentle visions, and dedication to the faith of our Fathers, and gives us the candor to request so that the convention of the Conference of Youth becomes a formal repeated event like the one we intensely experienced.
We praise God for His abundant and blessed gifts, and we humbly proclaim with Apostle Paul: “So faith, hope, love abide, these three but the greatest of these is love”. (1 Cor.13.13)