Fifty years at the service of inter-Orthodox and inter-Christian unity

On 22-23 April 2017, the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy (Geneva, Switzerland) celebrated the 50th anniversary of its foundation and the 20 years of activity of its Institute of Postgraduate Studies, as well as the 25th anniversary of the election of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew who visited Geneva on that occasion. An academic ceremony on Saturday 22 April marked the threefold anniversary during which several communications presented the history and the activities of the Orthodox Center.

The director of the Orthodox Center, Metropolitan Jeremiah of Switzerland spoke on the preparation of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, whose secretariat had been located since 1968 at the Orthodox Center. In the same perspective, the rector of the Institute, Professor Vlassios Phidas retraced the inter-Orthodox relations which have been facilitated by the Pan-Orthodox Conferences of Rhodes and Chambésy, as well as the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commissions and the Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conferences held in Chambésy between 1971 and 2015 which culminated with the Synaxis of Primates of the Orthodox Church gathered at the same Center in 2016. Archbishop Professor Job of Telmessos spoke about the Orthodox Center of Chambesy and its role promoting the relations between the Christian Churches and Confessions, insisting on the six bilateral theological dialogues the Orthodox Church has undertaken with the Anglican Communion, the Old Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the World Lutheran Federation, the Oriental Orthodox Churches and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, which started in Chambésy, with the exception of the Orthodox-Anglican dialogue. Bishop Makarios of Lampsakos presented the liturgical and spiritual life of the students of the Institute of Post-Graduate Studies. Professor Konstantinos Delikostantis spoke on the ecological and social responsibility of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew who is often referred to as the “Green Patriarch” or the “Patriarch of Solidarity”.

Greetings were also convened by Professor Guido Vergauwen and Professor Hans-Christoph Askani, representing respectively the University of Fribourg and the University of Geneva which are cooperating with Institute of Post-Graduate Studies of the Orthodox Center of Chambésy, as well by Reverend Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches. He underlined that “we are grateful for the presence of this center — in these 50 years. This center belongs to the history of the Orthodox Church, through its promotion of intra-Orthodox dialogue. It belongs to the history of the ecumenical movement, through its great contributions to inter-Church dialogue. It also belongs to the history of the international city of Geneva where we are serving and living”.

In his address, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew retraced the history of the foundation and the multiple contributions of the Orthodox Center by honoring major Orthodox figures of the 20th century who played a major role in its activites. “On the site of this Center, there were moments and decisions were made that have been decisive for the progress of inter-Orthodox and inter-Christian relations (…) This Center is the product of the encounter of the human faith and the power of God” — said the Ecumenical Patriarch.

On Sunday 23 April a solemn Divine Liturgy was presided by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in the stavropegic church of Saint Paul the Apostle of Nations in concelebration of seven bishops as well as priests and deacons from Germany, Greece, Russia, Switzerland and Turkey, in the presence of clergy, diplomats and a large assembly of believers.

On Monday 24 April, an academic ceremony took place at the University of Fribourg which marked the twenty years of fruitful collaboration of the University with the Institute of Post-Graduate Studies of the Orthodox Center of Chambésy. The Ecumenical Patriarch gave the keynote address on “Dialogue as the key of contemporary theology” where he developed the importance of dialogue between Christians, between religions and with the contemporary science and culture.

The Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was founded in June 1966. Its aims, as written in its Patriarchal and Synodic founding Tome, are:
– to inform the Christian world of the West, and especially of Western Europe, about the Orthodox worship and the Orthodox teaching, tradition and Theology;
– to study the theology and spiritual life of other Christian Churches and Confessions;
– to assist the communication between the local Orthodox Churches, and thus to promote orthodox unity;
– to promote the ecumenical spirit through the cultivation of relationships between Orthodoxy and other Christian Churches and Confessions aiming to promote the inter-Christian unity.

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