On 30 November 2016, on the feast of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First Called, the Ecumenical Patriarchate celebrated its Thronal Feast. According to the established tradition, the celebration was attended by a delegation from the Church of Rome that came for the occasion and was composed by His Eminence Kurt Cardinal Koch (President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity), His Excellency Archbishop Brian Russell (Apostolic Nuncio to Turkey), His Grace Bishop Brian Farrell (Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) and Monsignor Andrea Palmieri (Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity).
The Divine Liturgy was presided by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in concelebration with their Eminences the Metropolitans Iakovos of the Princes Islands, Joseph of Proikonesos, Meliton of Philadelphia, Dimitrios of Sebastia, Irenaios of Myrophytos and Perisatis, Chrysostom of Myra, Vasilios of Konstantia and Ammochostos, Emmanuel of France, Gennadios of Sassima, Amphilochios of Adrianople, Gerasimos of Petra and Cheronnissos and Georges of Karpenesion.
Attended the Divine Liturgy His Eminence Archbishop Nektarios of Anthydonos (representative of the Holy Sepulcher in Constantinople), their Eminences the Metropolitans Chrysostomos of Dodona, Paissios of Leros and Kalymnos, Constantine of Singapore, Cyril of Ierapithi and Seteia, and the bishop-elect Stephanos of Stratonikeia. In the holy altar were present their Eminences the Senior Metropolitans Constantine of Nicea, Athanasios of Chalcedon, Apostolos of Derka, John of Pergamon, the Metropolitans Evangelos of Perge, Germanos of Tranoupolis, Cyril of Imbros and Tenedos, Stephanos of Kallioupolis and Madytos, Elpidophoros of Proussa, Athenagoras of Kydonia, Maximos of Selyvria, Bartholomaios of Smyrna, Archbishop Job of Telmessos and their Graces the Bishops Adrianos of Alikarnassos and Cyril of Erythra. The Hellenic Republic was represented by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ioannis Amanatidis, the Ambassador Kyriakos Loukakis, and the General Consul in Istanbul Evangelos Sekeris. The Divine Liturgy was also attended by the Ukrainian Ambassador to Turkey Andrij Sybiha, the General Consul of Ukraine in Istanbul Vasyl Bodnar, the Director of the Department of Religious and Ethnic Affairs under the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine Andriy Yurash, as well as by numerous clergy and laity who came for the feast from different dioceses of the world.
The panegyric of the feast was pronounced by His Eminence Metropolitan Maximos of Selyvria who insisted on the importance of the theological dialogue between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople. At the end of the Divine Liturgy, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew pronounced a greeting to the delegation of the Church of Rome:
By His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
To the Delegation of the Church of Rome
At the Thronal Feast of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
(Phanar, November 30, 2016)
Your Eminence, beloved brother in Christ, Kurt Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, and members of the official Delegation of the most holy Church of elder Rome, conveying the fraternal wishes of His Holiness Pope Francis of Rome to the Church of New Rome on the occasion of its Thronal Feast,
We welcome you wholeheartedly on this auspicious day to the Phanar, the Sacred Center of Orthodoxy, which the four last Popes of Rome – Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis – visited in order to bear witness to and seal the new period of relations between our two Churches.
We believe in the power of personal communication, which establishes solid spiritual bonds. This is why we, too, continue the blessed tradition of our venerable predecessor Athenagoras, whose encounter in Jerusalem with Pope Paul VI in January 1964 was described as “the most significant event in the Church’s history since the Reformation”
The Mixed Commission of this Theological Dialogue this year has a new Orthodox Co-Chairman, His Excellency Archbishop Job of Telmessos, who succeeds His Eminence Metropolitan John of Pergamon, one of the most important theologians of our time. We express on this occasion, too, our gratitude and thanks to our brother Metropolitan of Pergamon, even as we wish the new Co-Chairman strength from above in the very responsible task that he is called to fulfill with Your Eminence Cardinal Koch. Beloved brother in Christ, we express our sincere thanks to you for your hard workas Co-Chairman for the advancement of this dialogue in a spirit of mutual respect and ecumenical responsibility.
As emphasized by the first Orthodox Co-Chairman of the Mixed Commission of the Theological Dialogue between our Churches, His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos of Australia, as a supreme spiritual endeavor, theological dialogue “not only requires the unceasing accompaniment of prayer both before and after the dialogue itself. In fact, in and of itself, dialogue is the most sacred form of prayer”
Your presence here, dearest brothers from Rome, at this joyous feast of the Church of Constantinople, commemorating the First-Called of the Apostles and martyr of truth, St. Andrew, who endured “an inverted crucifixion,” is in and of itself a contribution to the matter of dialogue between our Churches, which was and remains a dialogue of love in truth and a dialogue of truth in love.
We are especially delighted that, along with our theological dialogue, there are common initiatives that unfold and demonstrate the social mission of the Church of Christ, which in turn serve to support the dialogue and promote shared spiritual and charitable traditions.
It is the conviction of His Holiness Pope Francis and ourselves that the problem of reconciliation and peace, of justice and solidarity, cannot be resolved – while the deepest existential quests of humanity cannot be satisfied – without the contribution of faith in the living God. Contemporary estrangement from Christian tradition in secular societies only accelerates the expansion of gratification and the reduction of compassion.
With His Holiness Pope Francis of Rome, we share the same concerns, the same goals, and the same attitudes with regard to responding to the modern social and humanitarian crisis. Both of us underline the social content of freedom, love and solidarity; we both emphasize relationships and not isolation, being and not having, as well as fellowship and not greed. We resist any idealization of individualism and consumerism. We strive for a fairer world, for respect of human rights, and especially for the right of religious freedom.
The problems of refugees disturb us. We labor to resolve and heal human pain. We recall with affection our meeting in Lesbos last April, in the presence also of His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens, in order to support the refugees and immigrants, thereby highlighting the magnitude of the issue and contributing to a broader mobilization for its solution.
Our recent encounter with Pope Francis in Assisi and our joint prayer for peace further solidified our shared conviction that our Churches must intensify their efforts against fanaticism, injustice and violence, but also toward the establishment of a culture of solidarity.
We are capable of surviving without destroying the environment. We are capable of living without hatred. We are capable of coexisting in love and concord. Service is the essence of true freedom.
We agree about the need for special care toward our youth. Unfortunately, today, countless children and young adults suffer not only from lack of nourishment, undernourishment and hunger, but also from lack of meaning in life, since contemporary societies are oriented toward materialistic sense of economy and are therefore unable to provide spiritual nourishment, which would quench their existential thirst. Responding to this challenge of our youth is a crucial obligation.
Our Christian faith is a source of dynamism and love, demanding of every believer personal action and collaboration, in the unfailing conviction that the God of love, “who provides all things charitably” while blessing and increasing the seed that we plant. (Cf. 1 Cor. 3.7-8) The characteristic of an ecclesiastical ethos is that it is “in the world” but “not of the world.” The life and witness of the Christian believer is daily nurtured by the prayer: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6.9-10)
This spirit of a divinely-given and divinely-supported witness was also expressed and emphasized in the blessed decisions of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, which convened in June of this year on the island of Crete, and especially in its Encyclical and Message to the people of God and all people of good will. We express our gratitude to Your Eminence for your presence as an observer at this Council, together with His Grace Bishop Brian Farrell. We thank you, Your Excellency Minister Amanatidis, as well, for your sincere interest in our Council.
Your Eminence and dearly beloved Kurt Cardinal Koch,
Our most holy Churches were founded by two carnal brothers, disciples and apostles of our Savior, Saints Andrew and Peter, who “renounced their fishing nets” and followed their Teacher in faith and sincere love (cf. 2 Cor. 6.6 and 1 Tim. 1.5), “catching instead human souls in their nets, through the fishing rod of their preaching”
The First-Called and Chief of the Apostles are greatly honored in Rome and Constantinople. The loving communion between our two Churches, together with their loving presence in the world, is nurtured by the witness and martyrdom in Christ of their saintly founders. As the saving communion of God and the world, the Church is called to be the “beautiful love” (Song of Songs 7.6) in order to transform the present age in the light of the eschatological Kingdom.
With these thoughts and feelings, we greet your presence at the Phanar on this festive occasion. We convey our heartfelt wishes to our brother and friend Pope Francis on his forthcoming 80th birthday, thanking him once again for sending the honorable Delegation of the Church of Rome to the City of Constantine, as well as for his fraternal wishes on our 25th anniversary as Patriarch on the venerable Throne of Andrew the First-Called, who “called out to Peter in a stirring way”: “Peter, my carnal brother, we have found the Messiah, the one that was proclaimed by the law and the prophets. Behold, then, let us cling to this true life”
May the intercessions and supplications of these brother Apostles before the divine throne be our strength and support in our common journey toward unity as well as in the establishment of peace in today’s troubled world. Amen.
In response, His Eminence Kurt Cardinal Koch greeted His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the occasion of the thronal feast of the Church of Constantinople as well as his 25th anniversary of his election on the Ecumenical throne, and read the letter of His Holiness Pope Francis:
Pope Francis’ Message to Patriarch Bartholomew on the Occasion of the feast of Saint Andrew:
To His Holiness Bartholomaios
Archbishop of Constantinople
It gives me great joy, Your Holiness, to renew the tradition of sending a delegation to the solemn celebration of the feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, patron of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in order to convey my best wishes to you, my beloved brother in Christ, as well as to the members of the Holy Synod, the clergy and all the faithful gathered in remembrance of Saint Andrew. In this way, I am pleased to respond to your custom of sending a delegation of the Church of Constantinople for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, patron saints of the Church of Rome.
The exchange of delegations between Rome and Constantinople on the occasion of the respective feast days honouring the brother apostles Peter and Andrew is a visible sign of the profound bonds that already unite us. So too, it is an expression of our yearning for ever deeper communion, until that day when, God willing, we may witness to our love for one another by sharing the same eucharistic table. In this journey towards the restoration of eucharistic communion between us, we are sustained by the intercession not only of our patron saints, but by the array of martyrs from every age, who “despite the tragedy of our divisions… have preserved an attachment to Christ and to the Father so radical and absolute as to lead even to the shedding of blood” (Saint Pope John Paul II, Ut unum sint, 83).
It is for Catholics a source of real encouragement that at the Great and Holy Council held last June in Crete, the strong commitment to re–establishing the unity of Christians was confirmed. Ever faithful to your own tradition, Your Holiness has always remained conscious of existing difficulties to unity and has never tired of supporting initiatives which foster encounter and dialogue. The history of relations between Christians, however, has sadly been marked by conflicts that have left a deep impression on the memory of the faithful. For this reason, some cling to attitudes of the past. We know that only prayer, common good works and dialogue can enable us to overcome division and grow closer to one another.
Thanks to the process of dialogue, over the last decades Catholics and Orthodox have begun to recognize one another as brothers and sisters and to value each other’s gifts, and together have proclaimed the Gospel, served humanity and the cause of peace, promoted the dignity of the human being and the inestimable value of the family, and cared for those most in need, as well as creation, our common home. The theological dialogue undertaken by the Joint International Commission has also made a significant contribution to mutual understanding. The recent document Synodality and Primacy in the First Millennium. Towards a Common Understanding in Service to the Unity of the Church is the fruit of a longstanding and intense study by members of the Joint International Commission, to whom I extend my heartfelt gratitude. Though many questions remain, this shared reflection on the relationship between synodality and primacy in the first millennium can offer a sure foundation for discerning ways in which primacy may be exercised in the Church when all Christians of East and West are finally reconciled.
I recall with great fondness our recent meeting in Assisi with other Christians and representatives of religious traditions gathered to offer a united appeal for peace throughout the world. Our gathering was a joyful opportunity to deepen our friendship, which finds expression in a shared vision regarding the great questions that affect the life of the Church and of all society.
Your Holiness, these are some of my deepest hopes that I have wanted to express in a spirit of genuine fraternity. In assuring you of my daily remembrance in prayer, I renew my best wishes for peace, health and abundant blessings upon you and all those entrusted to your care. With sentiments of brotherly affection and spiritual closeness, I exchange with Your Holiness an embrace of peace in the Lord.