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Homily of His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW at the conclusion of the International Conference (7 September 2001)


Your Beatitude Patriarch MAXIMOS of Sofia and All Bulgaria,
Most erudite members of the Conference,
Beloved sons and daughters in the Lord,

It is with deep emotions that we have come to the conclusion of this important Conference; and, therefore, we wish to express our deep gratitude to those that organized it, those who supported it financially and those who participated in it, because they gave us the opportunity to go back to our spiritual roots. These roots are common to all the Christian peoples, not only those of the Balkans, but also those of the entire Europe and of the Slavic lands.
The experimentations of getting away from these roots, which were pursued under Nazi Germany through reviving pre-Christian cults, and under the Soviet Union through sponsoring atheism, demonstrated that the fruit produced was most bitter for the whole of humanity and much more for those who initiated and adopted this denunciation. Indeed, we can say that the contemporary secularization, which is observed in the countries of the so-called western civilization, does not produce fruit of good taste and nutrition, but fruit that corrupts the spirit and the material and natural environment.
Hence, the need for returning to our roots in order to build up the life of our societies on the unshakable foundations of the Byzantine humanistic and Christian values, because rejection of these values or even simple indifference to them incurs disastrous consequences for our spiritual equilibrium and integrity and for the orderly operation of our societies.
We do not contest that there are other civilizations as well, that have other roots, and that these too have produced some good fruit. None of them, however, can show as much love, philanthropy, respect for humanity, equality, mercifulness and sanctity, as the Christian Byzantine Civilization. If we put away the shadows that reflect upon certain aspects of Byzantine history, shadows that are due to violation of the main beliefs of the Christian Byzantine Civilization on account of human imperfection, we clearly see that no other civilization raised up the woman, the slave, the poor and the sick to such height of honor and dignity as to consider each one of them of equal value and honor as the kings, the leaders, the rich and the wise. In no other civilization was there such condemnation of individualism, ambition, injustice and every kind of evil machination, as in the Christian Byzantine Civilization.
    Sometimes in other countries beyond the regions exposed to the influence of the Byzantine Civilization, the Christian truth was distorted, so that deviations from the Christian precepts were justified, such as the exploitation of man by man, slavery, individualism and other such human passions. As for us, thanks to the contributions of our excellent speakers, to whom I address warm thanks from this position, we have been reconfirmed in our perception that the meadows of the Byzantine past are full of most useful fruit and that by collecting it from them we are enabled to find ideas and solutions to many problems of our times.
Therefore, we thank once again the authorities and the people of the city for the hospitality, the organization of the Conference, the noble invitation and lending of the rostrum, the speakers who labored to provide us with well documented communications, and the entire people of Bulgaria. We bestow on all of you our heartfelt paternal wishes and Patriarchal blessings, invoking on all God’s Grace and rich Mercy, so that through His assistance the effort that began with this Conference of restoring the bonds that unite the Bulgarian people with the illustrious spiritual and cultural heritage of Byzantium, which belongs the them too, might bear good and lasting fruit. Grant this O Lord.