|10 December 2004|
Your All Holiness,
At this time of Advent, as we prepare to celebrate the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, the light of the world, we greet you in the name of him who says, “In the world you face persecution. But take courage: I have overcome the world” (John 16.33).
On behalf of the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches, we write to express our profound sorrow at the reports we are receiving of new pressures and difficulties being brought upon the Ecumenical Patriarchate. We are pained to read of the public criticisms and attacks being made upon yourself and upon the Christian community in Turkey. Such hostility must be very hard to bear, with the added sense of isolation that it brings. Our own visits to you in Istanbul in April and May this year vividly reminded us of the need to sustain with you the reality of our fellowship in Christ: “When one member suffers, all suffer together with it.”
We wish Your All Holiness, and all our brothers and sisters under your leadership throughout the world, to know of our solidarity with you in thought and prayer at this difficult time. The days in the immediate future are, we realise, beset with many sensitivities in the political sphere especially as regards the question of the accession of Turkey to the European Union. This makes it even more important, we believe, that your own patient and determined advocacy of the accession of Turkey to the EU should be recognised and reaffirmed by all who have at heart the future of Turkey, and the peaceful development of Europe and the wider world. For those of us who have long know you, this is but one more example of the integrity you have shown as a leader in the worldwide Orthodox Church and in the ecumenical movement where you have unceasingly proclaimed the cause of dialogue, reconciliation and peace in the world at large no less than the calling to Christian unity. There are many throughout the world who deeply appreciate your most recent emphasis on this, in your message recorded for the first International Day of Prayer for Peace on 21 September this year.
Whatever may be the outcomes of the forthcoming political negotiations on 17 December, we in the WCC and CEC will follow the process with the greatest attention, and will seek to accompany the Ecumenical Patriarchate in reflection upon our common Christian responsibility for the future of Europe. Meanwhile, if it would prove helpful we shall be very glad if a representative each of WCC and CEC could visit the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the next few days, both as a further token of our solidarity with you and in order to gain further information on your situation and to receive your insights on the issues before us.
Please accept then, Your All Holiness, the assurances of our earnest prayers for God’s sustaining grace and guidance in the coming days, and our hopes for the strengthening of our common endeavours for peace and reconciliation.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia Rev. Dr. Keith Clements
General Secretary General Secretary
World Council of Churches Conference of European Churches