Your Eminence and Beloved Brother in Christ,
Walter Cardinal Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for
Promoting Christian Unity, and Honorable Members of the Delegation of
the Sister Church of Rome,
Honorable Archon Grand Deputy and Archons of the Great Church of Christ,
Beloved Brothers and Children in the Lord,
Celebrating today the blessed memory of St. Andrew, the First-called
Apostle, the founder of our Church, we first express our admiration and
joy because it is through His prayers and blessings that our Church
grew and was glorified, was persecuted and survived, and still lives
and exists to this very day. The little leaven of the first few
believers, through the uncreated energy of the Holy Spirit, leavened
such a multitude of persons and peoples, and cultivated to a great
spiritual depth and width the ferment of the Most Holy Church of
Constantinople, so that she was be able to carry on her shoulders the
great responsibility in matters of the church that have been
commissioned to her through the decisions of the Ecumenical Synods.
We then would like to express our gratitude to God for the fact that He
makes us worthy of ministering this Church that has been persecuted for
centuries and undergone many trials and tribulations. However, she has
also proven true the words of God to Apostle Paul “my strength is made
perfect in weakness” (2Cor 12:9).
In such a joyful state of wonder, gladness and gratitude we feel deeply
your brotherly love, Your Excellency Cardinal Kasper, as well as the
love of our very beloved brother His Holiness, Pope of Rome Benedict
XVI, who has sent this official Delegation, and we would like to thank
all of you wholeheartedly for coming here today to celebrate with us.
Our brotherly feelings are however, permeated by sorrow that comes from
the fact that we have still not succeeded to partake from the one Bread
and to drink from the same Cup, that in accord with the Apostle, we,
who are many, might be one body (1Cor 10:17). Sincerely, we experience
both ontologically and existentially intensely this sorrow of spiritual
separation, a separation more painful than any other separation.
It is for the accomplishment of this desired unity of all in Christ
that we deeply pray to God, but we also urge to our fellow man a
productive, good faith dialogue.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is knocking unceasingly on the doors of the
hearts of all people, waiting for them to open, so that He will enter
them and bring them the peace that is above all, the knowledge of the
truth, life and freedom. Our prayer is in harmony with His work.
We ask that He may ever invite all people to Himself, to joy and
freedom, to life and eternity.
Our invitation for dialogue addresses all people, regardless of faith
or standing, and its final goal is for all to learn the truth that is
in Christ and to taste the great delight that derives from knowing
Christ. This can only be attained if we replace the division that
exists in our hearts for one another for the purpose of unifying in
Christ with all, a unity which is the fullness of love and joy.
Certainly, the course for the unification of all has levels and stages
of progress, and is an issue, that goes beyond the lifetime of many.
First of all, there is the need to soften wide-spread human adversity
and gradually to create relations of mutual acceptance and tolerance
and, even better trust.
The anticipated goal of this dialogue is not the personal victory of
one side of the participants over the other; the goal is to discover a
ray of truth and commonly accept it. The discovery and acceptance of
the first ray of truth should then lead to the discovery of yet another
one, and so on. The more the mind of a human being is enlightened, the
more he discovers that peaceful coexistence with his fellow human
beings is beneficial to all.
The fullness of the truth however, cannot be obtained or ensured by
means of accuracy in its expression, because it is chiefly an
ontological reality; it is an experience in Christ; it is Christ.
Living in Christ cannot be achieved only by means of intellect. It also
requires a genuine grafting into Him, as in a well-cultured olive tree
(Rom 11:23), the communion of His body and spirit (1Cor 10:16), the
ascent to Mt. Tabor and participation in the Transfiguration (Matt
17:2-6), so that we will be enlightened by the uncreated divine light
and recognize Jesus, who is walking with us in a different guise and is
known “in the Breaking of the Bread” (Lk 24:35).
All these do not render necessary the correctness of the formulation of
the truth. However, they make clear that the formulation cannot fully
express and substitute reality. The formulation palisades the
boundaries beyond which truth ceases to exist, but the full knowledge
of truth, i.e. the ontological participation in it, is not given only
to the one knowing its formulation and analysis.
Nevertheless, the Holy Fathers expressed with much zeal and attention
the dogmatic Terms of the Holy Ecumenical Synods in an effort to
protect us from an inadvertent overstepping of the boundaries of truth
and a fall in the realm of error and deception.
Therefore, the terms simply denote the truth; they do not embody it. In
spite of that, they are necessary and useful, and their understanding
helps (especially if it is combined with love, faith, prayer and other
virtues) in the preparation for the acceptance of the great event of
the real encounter of the soul with Christ and her incorporation into
His body. Then the truth is being lived and all discussions concerning
this issue cease.
Once the truth is lived, then she transforms the one who experiences
her into a herald of the Gospel of peace and salvation, saying together
with the Apostle “woe unto me, if I preach not the gospel”(1Cor 9:16).
With regards to this matter, one of the contemporary ascetics,
confirming through his experience the unceasing experiential tradition
of the Church, says: “The Christian…once he finds Christ, once he knows
Christ, once Christ enters his insignificant soul and he feels Him, he
then wants to call out and tell it ‘on the mountain’, he wants to talk
about Christ, what Christ is: you love Christ and prefer nothing else
to His love. Christ is everything, He is the source of life, He is
everything. Everything beautiful and good exists in Christ”.
Our effort to develop dialogues is, as proven from the aforementioned,
an effort that aims at its final stage to know the person and the love
of Christ. It does however, have to pass through the previous stages of
getting to know and loving our fellow men, finding common ground, and
points of reference and communication among them, as it is said by the
Apostle who has become all things to all men that he might by all means
save some (1Cor 9:22).
Our effort in this, although it is of course pleasing in the eyes of
God, Who wants the unity of all in Christ, is being judged and
criticized in many ways.
Some, who belong already to the Church, fear that the invitation that
we extend to the heterodox for unity, and to those of different faith
for a peaceful coexistence, conceals concession to the truth. They
believe that this entails acceptance of syncretism, or even that the
unity is pursued within the framework of abandoning certain truths in
order to agree on others and therefore to unite.
This is not true; because the unity of Christians is not possible to be
achieved outside the one and only Jesus Christ, Who does not accept
contradictory or different accounts and descriptions, the personal and
sole expresser of the truth, of the self-truth. It is not possible for
us to be united, if we ignore the face of Christ, and all that it
Therefore, if we try to find human expressions of the truth, that, due
to their conciseness or even their obscurity, give the impression that
we are in agreement, we will not be successful in our unity. This will
be because in such a case we simply deceive ourselves, by creating an
apparent unity, underneath which we assiduously cover our disagreement.
It is however, impossible for the concealed disagreement to remain
forever in secret. Sooner or later the time will come when it
will surface and it will thus reveal the decayed and decrepit nature of
a hollow unity.
Some show their disbelief in the sincerity of those in dialogue. They
suspect that traps have been set in place by our counterparts in the
dialogues, to snare us, so that they can win whatever they desire to
our detriment. We cannot of course rule out the possibility of a
collocutor being dishonest and pretentious. We however, have our hopes
in God Who knows our sincerity, that he will not allow us to hurt the
truth in case we become victims of insincere collocutors.
Others refer to cases of the historical past, during which similar
dialogues failed, and they claim that this will repeat itself with the
dialogues of our times. Thus, they come to their conclusion that the
new dialogues are in vain because they are destined to fail. If
however, even one soul benefits from these dialogues and returns from
her erroneous path to the truth of Christ, our hard work is worth it,
because the one soul is worth more than the entire world.
There are also those who support the idea that the dialogues are
nothing but the deceptive way of the devil to seduce us through his
arguments and to turn us towards his gilded deceptions, as has been the
case for many who while they began with the purpose to vitiate the
enemy’s arguments, being tempted by what was promised to them were
finally taken over by the enemy.
Indeed, there are in the course of history such incidents, but we fear
not, for we do not depend on our own strength to remain in the truth,
but on the irresistible power of God. It is Him that we beseech to
protect and safeguard the collocutors who have the right and sound
knowledge, from being seduced into the errors of their brothers.
Moreover, it is not proper and right for fear to become the advisor in
our actions, “because greater is he that is in us, than he that is in
the world” (1Jh 4:4).
Thinking in this manner, we have as our advisor St John of the Ladder,
who advises us to never get tired of conversing with those who in good
faith are asking from us the reason of the hope that we have within us.
We have as our role model the one whom we celebrate and honor today,
our patron saint, St Andrew the Apostle, the First-called, and all the
Apostles throughout the centuries, who courageously conversed with our
idolatrous forefathers and with all those who held heterogeneous
beliefs and called them to the knowledge of Christ.
Being aware of the reservations, we desire the dialogue with all:
Christians who belong to the same denomination and those who are
heterodox; people of the same faith and those of a different faith; so
that we might reach a better understanding of one-another, and develop
peaceful relations; so that one day we may realize the much-desired
peaceful coexistence of humanity. If then we are asked to provide an
individual with the opportunity to meet Christ, inviting that person to
see Him living in the Church, we will do so with joy. The manner and
goal of each dialogue differs of course according to the situation, but
the disposition is always peaceful and friendly.
As far as the Theological Dialogue with the respected and beloved Roman
Catholic Church is concerned, we have the desire to continue it, having
overcome the obstacles that have arisen, with the intervention of the
new Primate of the Church of Rome. The honorable and beloved, His
Holiness Benedict XVI Pope of Rome, certainly desires the cultivation
of the good relations between us, as well as the promotion of the
cooperation and in due time the unity of the Churches. We anticipate
his visit here with honor and joy, once his obligations and
responsibilities will allow him to do that.
We also express our happiness for the mutual lifting of the
excommunications that took place the 7th of December 1965, forty years
ago and brought about a change in the climate of the relations of the
Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Christians, and allowed the restoration
of peace between them, as well as the beginning and continuation of the
dialogue, regardless of some obstacles in the process.
A dialogue that is dispassionate and without any prejudices can be only
beneficial, despite the hesitations that some may have, being afraid of
the tensions of the past, which had then led to the anathemas that have
already been lifted. In any case, it is beyond any doubt that a
deviated course of a thousand years cannot converge into unity
overnight. But we ought to have that convergence into unity as a vision
and work hard for its realization. It is in this direction that the
participation of representatives of the one Church to conferences and
meetings of members of the other Church aims at. An example of this is
the recent Conference of the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church that
came together to discuss the topic of the Holy Eucharist. That
Conference was attended by our representative, His Eminence and beloved
brother, Metropolitan John of Pergamon, who is also co-president
together with Your Eminence, in the Joint Commission of our Theological
Dialogue. Such was also the case when You, Your Eminence our brother
attended our recent Inter-religious Conference here on the topic of
Peace and Tolerance.
We would like to thank wholeheartedly His Holiness the Pope of Rome
Benedict XVI for participating in our joy through his Delegation, as
well as all those who participate in the celebration of this Feast Day
of the Throne of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and we invoke on all the
grace and the abundant mercy of God, through the intercessions of our
honored patron St Andrew, the Apostle, the First-Called. Amen.
Read also the Address of His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the reception held upon the Patronal Feast of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (30/11/2005) here