Celebration of the 1920 Encyclical of the Ecumenical Patriarchate “Unto the Churches of Christ Everywhere”

Under the title “The Synodal Encyclical of 1920: 100 Years of Exceptional Influence,” the Ecumenical Patriarchate celebrated, on 1 December 2021, one of the most important ecumenical documents of the 20th century. The conference was originally scheduled to take place last year, on the 100th anniversary of the publication of the Encyclical but was postponed due to severe restrictive measures against the pandemic.

A few years before his death, Dr Willem Visser ‘t Hooft, the first general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), had dedicated the first chapter of his book “The Genesis and Formation of the World Council of Churches” to this historical document, recognizing its foundational character in the history of the WCC.

The opening session was attended by the Patriarch of the Armenians in Turkey, representatives of the Pontifical Council of Christian Unity, the acting general secretary of the WCC, the president of the Conference of European Churches, hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Churches of Cyprus and Greece, diplomats and official guests.

In his opening speech, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew characterized the Encyclical as an axial text in the history of the ecumenical movement. He particularly insisted on the fact that the Encyclical was drafted by members of the faculty of the Theological School of Halki, expressing therefore the “spirit of Halki,” whose main characteristics were openness to the world and confidence in the power of dialogue. Unfortunately, the School of Halki has been closed for five decades and it is certain that the suspension of the school also affected the course of the ecumenical movement. 

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Thronal Feast of the Ecumenical Patriarchate

The Ecumenical Patriarchate honored the memory of its founder, the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called. On Tuesday 30 November 2021, a solemn Divine Liturgy was presided by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in concelebration with their Eminences the Senior Metropolitans Emmanuel of Chalcedon and Dimitrios of the Princes Islands, and the Metropolitans Nektarios of Anthedon (Representative of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem), Vasilios of Constantia and Ammochostos (representing the Church of Cyprus), Meliton of Philadelphia, Seraphim of Sevasteia, Irinaios of Myriophytos and Peristasis, Chrysostomos of Myra, Naum of Rousse (Church of Bulgaria) and Amphilochios of Adrianople in the Patriarchal Church of St. George, at the Phanar. With them concelebrated as well the Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, acting general secretary of the World Council of Churches (from the Church of Romania). The homily was preached by His Eminence Metropolitan Kyrillos of Rhodes.

Were also present their Eminences the Senior Metropolitan Apostolos of Derka, Metropolitans Panteleimon of Bryoula, Dimitrios of Metra and Athyra, Theolyptos of Iconium, Eugene of Rethymnon and Aulopotamos, Polycarpos of Italy, Stephanos of Kallioupolis and Madytos, Elpidophoros of America, Joseph of Buenos Aires, Athenagoras of Kydonia, Maximos of Selybria, Gerasimos of Petras and Cheronissos, Kyrillos of Hierapytna and Siteia, Andreas of Saranta Ekklisies, Ioakim of Proussa and Job of Telmessos, and their Graces the Bishops Tikhon of Tiberioupolis (Church of Bulgaria), Adrianos of Alikarnassos, Benjamin of Tralles, Irinaios of Eumeneia and Smaragdos of Daphnousia.

The Divine Liturgy was attended by the official delegation of the Church of Rome, headed by His Eminence Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, as well as by the Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Greece Mr. Andreas Katsaniotis, representing the Greek Government together with his honorable entourage, the Deputy Minister of Education and Religions of Greece Mr. Zetta Makri, the Ambassadors of Greece and Ukraine to Ankara, Mr. Michael-Christos Diamesis and Vasyl Bodnar, the Consul General in the City Mrs. Georgia Sultanopoulou, together with her husband the Ambassador of Greece in London Mr. Ioannis Raptakis, the Consuls General of Bulgaria and Ukraine in the City Mr. Vassil Valchev and Roman Nedilskyi, members of the Greek Delegation to the Interparliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy, the Mayors of Athens and Thessaloniki, Mr. Costas Bakogiannis and Mr. Konstantinos Zervas, as well as many faithful from the City, Greece and other countries.

At the end of the Divine Liturgy, the Ecumenical Patriarch addressed the official delegation of the Roman Catholic Church with these words:

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An Interfaith Project for Protection and Security for Places of Worship

Τhe Center of Ecumenical Missiological and Environmental Studies “Metropolitan Panteleimon Papageorgiou” (CEMES), a foundation working with the blessing of His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who also inaugurated its offices at St. Theodora Monastery of Thessaloniki in 2013, is participating in the EU funded project PROSECUW (Protection and Security of Places of Worship, ISFP 2020-AG-PROTECT- Project Number: 101034232) and is working together with similar academic foundations from Cyprus, Germany and Portugal. A summary of this pioneering project is the following: 

“Places of worship around Europe and the world are, according to a recent report, in increased danger in the last years due to terrorist attacks and augmentation of hate crimes. These places serve not only individuals but also families and people in need. Thus, it is essential they be able to feel safe in such places and this should be a top priority among local and national stakeholders. One of the various ways to improve protection and security in places of worship is the engagement of the community in the protection efforts.

The main objective of the project is to establish cooperation between public authorities and faith-based leaders and congregations aiming at a better understanding of, security threats, promotion of awareness-raising activities, and the creation of manuals for sharing best practices and relevant tools among EU stakeholders.

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Global Christian Forum’s International Committee met virtually

The Global Christian Forum’s International Committee met virtually on 26 October 2021. Participants joined the meeting from around the world to reflect on places they find hope and to plan for the next Global Gathering which will take place in 2024. One participant shared that he finds hope in the resurrection which assures us that evil does not have the final word; the final word belongs to God. The Committee unanimously confirmed that we will have the fourth Global Gathering the week of 15-19 April, 2024.

Ecumenical leaders of WCC member Churches convened to form vision in lead-up to 11th WCC Assembly

Nearly 60 ecumenical officers convened on 25-28 October 2021 at the Ecumenical Institute at Château de Bossey near Geneva, focusing on plans for the World Council of Churches (WCC) 11th Assembly in 2022 and its theme, “Christ ́s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity.” This gathering was the ecumenical officers’ largest in the lead-up to the assembly.

In welcoming remarks, WCC acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca expressed joy at the ecumenical officers being able to gather again after two years. “During the past two years we faced many questions in our different contexts about our world and the life of our churches,” Sauca said. “The world changed in ways we could not imagine.” As plans for the assembly take shape, Sauca said, these plans are undergirded with a feeling of moving forward together. “This meeting is an integral part of the process of preparation for the next assembly. We look forward to your input on the fruits of our work and the harvest we can bring to Karlsruhe,” he said. “Our world needs love, reconciliation and unity. And our fellowship is called to respond in prayer and with acts of transforming discipleship”, added Sauca.

Rev. Dr Benjamin Simon, WCC programme executive for Church relations, said that the meeting was an example of how a gathering can take place both in-person and online, and still draw people together in a genuine setting. “With 40 ecumenical officers present in Bossey—coming from all over the world—we are so grateful for face-to-face time,” said Simon. “We are equally grateful for an additional 30 ecumenical officers who are following from across the globe, because they were not able to be present due to COVID-19-related restrictions.”

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Meeting of the Drafting Committee of the International Commission for the Anglican–Orthodox Theological Dialogue

After a two-year hiatus, the Drafting Committee of the International Commission for the Anglican–Orthodox Theological Dialogue met between 18 and 23 October 2021 in Hierapetra on the island of Crete (Greece).

The meeting brought together on the Orthodox side Metropolitan Athenagoras of Belgium, the Orthodox co-president (Ecumenical Patriarchate), Protopresbyter Georges Dragas (Patriarchate of Jerusalem), Professor Bogdan Louvartic (Patriarchate of Serbia), Professor Nathan Hop (Church of Albania) and the Orthodox co-secretary Protopresbyter Christos Christakis. The Anglican side was composed by Archbishop Dr Richard Clarke, the Anglican co-president, Bishop of Norwich Dr James Graham, as well as Pastors Rev. Canon Dr Alison Joyce, Sarah Rawland Jones, Neil Vaïngers and the Anglican co-secretary William Adam.

The committee worked on the other text dealing with euthanasia and end of life, preparing the document for the upcoming plenary assembly. The Commission also undertook the study of the next topics: organ donation and transplantation, as well as marriage.

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Extraordinary Meeting of the Forum of the Orthodox Churches in Europe

An Extraordinary Meeting of the Forum of the Orthodox Churches in Europe was held via Zoom Call on Wednesday, 15th of September 2021, in the context of the Forum of Dialogue between the Orthodox Churches in Europe and the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences of the Roman Catholic Church (CCEE). Despite the fact that this Meeting was jointly decided since last January, the very busy program of the CCEE, with several international conferences scheduled for the month of September, as well as the election of its new President, made impossible the participation of the Roman Catholic delegation. Nevertheless, the Orthodox delegates decided to meet among themselves and to benefit from this unique opportunity of fellowship and fraternal discussion. The Meeting, which was chaired by H.E. Metropolitan Prof. Dr. Gennadios of Sassima (Ecumenical Patriarchate), Orthodox Co-President of the Forum, dealt with the following timely theme, necessitated by the coronavirus crisis: Covid-19: The Society’s Experience and the Role of the European Churches Today.

The participants in the Meeting were: H.E. Metropolitan Prof. Dr. Gennadios of Sassima (Ecumenical Patriarchate), The Rev. Presbyter Prof. Dr. Bassam Nassif (Patriarchate of Antioch), Prof. Dr. Bogdan Lubardić (Patriarchate of Serbia), H.E. Metropolitan Dr. Joseph in Western and Southern Europe (Patriarchate of Romania), The V. Rev. Protopresbyter Prof. Dr. Giorgi Zviadadze (Patriarchate of Georgia), H.E. Metropolitan Prof. Dr. Vasilios of Constantia and Ammochostos (Church of Cyprus), The V. Rev. Archimandrite Dr. Amfilochios Miltos (Church of Greece), Prof. Dr. Nathan Hoppe (Church of Albania), H.E. Archbishop Prof. Dr. Job of Telmessos (Consultant, Ecumenical Patriarchate), Prof. (Em.) Dr. Konstantinos Delikostantis (Consultant, Ecumenical Patriarchate), and The V. Rev. Grand Ecclesiarch Aetios, Director of the Private Patriarchal Office (Orthodox Co- Secretary, Ecumenical Patriarchate).

The Meeting was opened with a moment of prayer. After the approval of the draft agenda, in his Greeting, H.E. Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima offered a brief overview of the establishment and development of the Forum between the Orthodox Churches in Europe and CCEE not as a mechanism to replace by any means the official theological dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, but as a proper regional avenue for the discussion of social issues and problems within a theological framework. In his introductory remarks to the main theme of the Meeting, Metropolitan Gennadios explained how the ongoing health crisis prevented the convocation of a new Forum Meeting. Then, His Eminence invited each one of the participants to briefly introduce himself and to share, with the other members, experiences about how his local Church faced and dealt with the tragedy of the coronavirus.

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Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew celebrated the 30th anniversary of his election

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew celebrated on 22 October 2021 the Divine Liturgy on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of his election to the Apostolic and Patriarchal Ecumenical Throne, in concelebration with their Eminences Metropolitans Elders Emmanuel of Chalcedon and Dimitrios of the Princes’ Islands, the Metropolitans Dimitrios of Metres and Athyra, Alexios of Atlanta, Joseph of Proikonnisos, Meliton of Philadelphia, Seraphim of Sevastia, Kyrillos of Krene, Joseph of Buenos Aires, Plato of Lagada, Litis and Rentinis, Kallinikos of Kastoria and Bartholomew of Polyane and Kilkis.

At the end of the Divine Liturgy, the Ecumenical Patriarch was greeted on behalf of the Hierarchy by His Eminence Metropolitan Elder Emmanuel of Chalcedon. Greeting Messages were also read from their Beatitudes the Pope and Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria, Patriarch Daniel of Romania, Archbishop Chrysostom of Cyprus, Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and all Albania and Metropolitan Epiphanios of Kyiv and All Ukraine, as well as from of the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on behalf of the Greek Government.

Were present many hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne, the Representative of the Holy Sepulcher in Constantinople His Eminence Archbishop Nektarios of Anthidona, members of delegations of the local autocephalous Orthodox Churches, clergy, monks and nuns, representatives of other Christian Churches in Turkey, the Ambassadors of Greece and Ukraine and other diplomats, and many faithful from Constantinople and pilgrims from abroad.

His All-Holiness also received many greetings, in writing and by telephone, from Primates of Churches, Heads of State, Prime Ministers and political leaders, hierarchs, religious leaders and many personalities, as well as many believers of all nationalities from around the world.

Pope Francis greeted Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of his election

On 22 October 2021, His Holiness Pope Francis sent to His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew the following letter of congratulations on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of his election as Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch:

“Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come” (Rev 1:4)

Dearest brother in Christ,

On the joyful occasion of the 30th anniversary of your election as Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch, I express my fervent best wishes: Χρόνια πολλά! Ad multos annos!

I join you in thanksgiving to the Lord for the many blessings bestowed upon your life and ministry over these years, and pray that God, from whom all gifts come, will grant you health, spiritual joy and abundant grace to sustain every aspect of your lofty service.

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The Annual Conference of Secretaries of World Christian Communions met online

The Annual Conference of Secretaries of World Christian Communions met online on 12-14 October 2021 due to the pandemic of COVID-19. The annual Conference of Secretaries of World Christian Communions brings together representatives from diverse Christian traditions to exchange information and to discuss their work and fellowship together.

Secretaries heard reports from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Orthodox Church of Russia, Armenian Apostolic Church, Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity of the Roman Catholic Church, World Council of Churches, Anglican Communion, Lutheran World Federation, International Old Catholic Bishops’ Conference, World Communion of Reformed Churches, Global Christian Forum, Baptist World Alliance, Global Pentecostalism, Disciples Ecumenical Consultative Council, Mennonite World Conference, Moravian Church Worldwide Unity Board, Organization of African Independent Churches, World Convention of the Churches of Christ, World Evangelical Alliance, World Methodist Council, Salvation Army, Friends World Committee for Consultation, and the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventists.

Besides discussing the state of bilateral dialogues and contemporary topics related to the ecumenical movement, the secretaries also reflected on how the Churches have been challenged during coronavirus pandemic.

This informal ecumenical forum, dating back to 1957, sees itself as “communions of churches belonging to the same tradition and held together by this common heritage, conscious of living in the same universal fellowship and giving to this consciousness at least some structured visible expression.”