Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
To the Delegation of the Church of Rome
At the Thronal Feast of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
(Phanar, 30 November 2012)
Your Eminence, beloved brother in Christ, Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, honorable members of the Delegation representing our beloved brother, Pope and Bishop of Senior Rome,
We thank you wholeheartedly and also His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI of Rome, who has sent you, for the love that the Church of Senior Rome has shown to our Most Holy Church of New Rome by means of your participation in our joy on the occasion of the Thronal Feast of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as we reciprocate on the occasion of the Thronal Feast of the Church of Rome.
We still preserve, brethren, our sentiments from our recent meeting with our brother the Pope of Rome at His See for the celebration in honor of the 50th anniversary of Vatican II, which truly opened up a new path towards the unity of the Churches. Being in noetic communion even today with our Most Holy Brother, we thank Him once again for the honor he has shown to us, and most especially, for the exchange of fraternal views and thoughts concerning our common journey towards unity.
The uniqueness of the founders of our Churches, of Elder Rome and of New Rome, the Holy Apostles Peter and Andrew, as brothers according to the flesh, constitutes a motivation for both of our Churches to move toward the genuine experience of spiritual brotherhood and the restoration of communion in this same spirit, in truth and in love.
Unfortunately, throughout the course of the centuries, this brotherhood has been deeply wounded and as a result, the spiritual unity of our Churches has been disrupted. For centuries, theologians, as well as ecclesiastical personalities of both Churches spent their energy not in the context of dialogue, but rather in promoting and supporting their own positions, not taking into consideration that of St. John Chrysostom, “Thou hast spoken once, perhaps, and he hath not heard. Speak therefore twice, and thrice, and as often as it may be, till thou hast persuaded him. Every day God is addressing us, and we do not hear; and yet He does not leave off speaking. Do thou, therefore, imitate this tender care towards thy neighbour” (Stat. 16.6, PG 49.171-72; NPNF1-9:451-452).
It is already empirically evident that the conviction has matured in the hearts of both sides, namely that, from this point on the course of our efforts must be reversed. That is to say, we must expend our spiritual energy not in the effort of finding justifications for the strengthening of positions, which we overly defended in the past towards the justification of the schism, but in sincerely endeavoring to find arguments that verify the error of divisive inclinations and that, even more, seek out ways of approaching full restoration of the unity of the Churches.
The best method for investigating this matter is the continuation and cultivation of inter-ecclesiastical dialogues and relations, as well as especial cultivation of the outcome of the dialogue of love into a substantial and theological dialogue between both of our Churches, Orthodox and Roman Catholic. The personal acquaintance of the members, and especially of the representatives of the Churches often leads to the discovery that the people involved are of goodwill and that a deeper understanding of the events that provoked the schism based upon objectivity will suffice to dissipate fears, suspicions, distrust and conflicts of the past.
The current members and especially those of the highest ranks of our Churches are driven, for the most part, by goodwill toward the removal of inherited obstacles and toward the attainment of the greatly desired unity in the faith, which will also bring about our eucharistic communion, confessedly desired by all. Unfortunately, the pace of the progress and the turning of human hearts toward this direction is slow, owing to our human weakness in obeying the Will of God, transcending positions, statuses and “theologies” that have been upheld until recently, and are even still promoted by many today, within the bosom of both of our Churches, as the very progress of the thirty-two year Theological Dialogue demonstrates.
We must therefore, accelerate these developments, reinforcing with as much strength as we have this Dialogue of truth, so that by means of the frequent and wide-ranging discussions, we may raise the level of knowledge and facilitate mutual understanding, thus directing ourselves toward “all truth” (see John 16:13), which always and above all conquers. As was said by the luminary of Cappadocia, St. Basil the Great, “I put truth and my own salvation before everything” (To Theophilus the Bishop, Letter 245, PG 32.925B-C; NPNF2-8:794).
The mature fruit of this knowledge is the progressive agreement upon particular points, an agreement, which on the tally of disagreements and agreements, will continuously increase the sum of the agreements until all disagreements are eclipsed. On that day, we will all, united in faith and love, jointly glorify our Savior Christ, Who will have led us through fire and water to refreshment.
Your visit here today, beloved brothers in the Lord, in order to take part in our joy on the feast of the Most Holy Church of Constantinople in memory of the Holy Apostle Andrew, the disciple of St. John the Forerunner and Baptist, and later of our Lord Jesus Christ, contributes substantially to the rekindling of interest in the promotion of the dialogue between our Churches. Even when the representatives in the dialogue are unable to achieve a common acceptance of certain conclusions at a given moment, the value of the dialogue, seemingly failed, continues to be significant, because even the discovery of disagreement impels toward the pursuit of agreement. But the very pursuit of success of a certain goal is the foundation for its realization. The lack of agreement upon a certain issue or point leads to the repetition of the discussion with the common hope that it not fail again, and provided that there is goodwill, the Grace of God, which attends upon everything, will grant the interlocutors of goodwill inspiration by the Holy Spirit from above toward the common acceptance of the proper conclusion, according to our predecessor St. Gregory the Theologian, “It is not a bad thing to be defeated in dialogue, for dialogue is not the privilege of all” (Gregory the Theologian, To Heron the philosopher, PG 35.1224B).
According to the truth narrated in the holy Gospel of St. John, by which the Logos of God is truth (see John 17:17), the Apostle Andrew announced elatedly to his brother, the Holy Apostle Peter, that, “we have found the Messiah” and he led him to Jesus. A brother, then, leads a brother to the Lord. In this case, it is not significant for our current context which of the two brothers led the other to Jesus. Both of us, the successors of the Apostle Peter and of the Apostle Andrew, ought to bear witness one to the other that “we have found the Messiah” and we each ought to direct our steps toward Him. For He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He who walks continuously invisible with us toward Emmaus, or toward the “Galilee” of each of us, is the Resurrection and the Salvation of the world. He is also the Hope of humanity for the way out of every crisis, both ethical and economic, which afflicts our age.
Therefore, both of us, our brother the Pope of Rome and our Modesty, along with our Churches, and all our spiritual leaders, ought to show, by our example, to the rulers of the world’s resources, that they need to remember compassion and love toward those in need, because otherwise social cohesion is at risk, which, if disturbed, will bring enormous destruction to both the just and unjust.
The current year is passing. With terrifying and negative predictions for the developments of human affairs on a global sphere. In the year of our Lord 2013, currently in view, we will celebrate the 1700th anniversary of the proclamation of the Edict of Milan, by means of which the freedom of the Christian faith, and freedom of religion in general, was proclaimed by the emperor of the Romans, St. Constantine the Great. This freedom, which Christ promised and in which He has set us free (see Galatians 5:1), we ought to preserve and strengthen. And this we, the two Churches, accomplish by words and deeds, in unison. Your Roman Catholic Church has celebrated the 50th anniversary of the convocation of Vatican II. Our Holy Orthodox Church finds itself in the delightful position of announcing that the preparation of its Holy and Great Synod has almost been completed, that it is in its final stages and will be convoked in the near future. It will pronounce upon the issue, among others, of the dialogues of Orthodoxy with the other Churches and it will take the fitting decisions in unity and authenticity so that we may progress toward the “unity of faith” in the communion of the Holy Spirit in the surety that “To lovers of the truth nothing can be put before God and hope in Him” (Basil the Great, To Eustathius the Physician, Letter 151, PG 32.608B; NPNF2-8:604).
In this conviction, having forgotten or ignoring what is behind us and reaching out to what lies ahead (see Philippians 3:13), and with our eyes fixed on the Creator of the whole world, the Lord, who is identified with the Truth, we the two Churches, walk toward the end times looking to the one who is able to fulfill in superabundance our requests or considerations, “the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (see Revelation 22:13), believing that the Divine Will shall guide “to all Truth,” “so that we may be one,” we who believe in Him not only in forms or in words, but in essence and in actions.
During this necessary and historical co-journey, while surely seeking the union between us, we ought to display union first, especially today, in relation to the way we approach the misfortune of our mainly spiritually poor, but also materially poor fellow humans. This is surely much easier and can be immediately accomplished. We the spiritual leaders and clerics are, therefore, called to approach as the Good Samaritan, and indeed not “by chance,” but “while it is yet day” we are called to “bind their wounds,” “pouring on oil and wine” (see Luke 10:31,34). We will show forth in this way that we look toward the “man” and that he, our fellow man, “has a man,” the Church, in the same way that on this very man’s account and that of the world, our Savior “became man and was clothed in flesh…” and that for Him “everything is possible, everything is obedient, everything has been subjected” (see Doxastikon tis Lites of the Sunday of the Paralytic, Poem of Koumoulas, Pentecostarion, Apostoliki Diakonia (1959) 71-72), and Who alone will say, when the fullness of time has come, “take up your bed and walk”. We will appear united “at the ends”, proclaiming the power and great mercy of Him, the Lord of powers and of glory.
Because of these thoughts and brotherly sentiments, as we welcome you, Your Eminence, brother Cardinal, with your venerable Delegation, we again warmly thank our Most Holy brother, the Bishop of Elder Rome, who has sent you to represent his participation in the joy and celebration of our Thronal Feast, as we pray for all Grace and Blessing of the All-good God upon our Churches and His world which is being tested, by the supplications of our Most Holy Theotokos, of St. Andrew the First-called who is celebrated today, of his brother, the Apostle Peter, and of all the Saints. Amen.