New communique concerning the COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

As this Coronavirus crisis continues to spread and intensify on a global scale, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is monitoring the situation with an urgent sense of responsibility towards its faithful and all people without exception, and, following the Communiqué of 11 March 2020, upon deliberation of its Hierarchs in the City, announces the following:

1) The Ecumenical Patriarchate emphatically reiterates its appeal to everyone to limit their outings and travels to what is necessary, remaining in their homes for their own safety and the protection of the general public.

2) It commends the spirit of self-sacrifice demonstrated by those working in the field of healthcare and expresses its gratitude for their extraordinary and exhaustive efforts to assist those in need, as well as for the danger they knowingly risk by coming in contact with those infected by Covid-19.

3) It underlines the need for everyone to follow the decisions and instructions of the responsible health authorities for the sake of the common good.

4) In light of decisions already taken by some eparchies of the Ecumenical Throne, today we universally declare our ecclesiastical resolution and mandate to cease all divine services, events, and rites, with the exception of private prayer in churches that will remain open, until the end of March. This restriction will be later reassessed, in accordance with the development of the pandemic caused by the virus.

5) All Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monasteries will continue to hold regular divine services for their monastic communities, but outside pilgrims and visitors will not be permitted entry.

6) In the same framework, the Patriarchal Offices at the Phanar will remain closed until further notice, while the Ecumenical Patriarch and clergy of the Patriarchal Court will perform the prescribed divine services and pray for the whole world and for its speedy relief from this trial.

From the Chief Secretariat
of the Holy and Sacred Synod

Phanar, 18 March 2020

Communique concerning the COVID-19 (Corona virus)

The Holy and Great Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, convened under the presidency of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and among other issues, thoroughly deliberated upon the events of the COVID-19 (Corona) virus and with a feeling of pastoral responsibility, points out the following:

1) Despite the seriousness of the situation, prudence, patience, and the avoidance of panic are advised.

2) The Church has and continues to respect medical science. Thus, the Church recommends that all the faithful adhere to the official directives of both the World Health Organization and the pertinent pronouncements and legal regulations issued by the civil authorities of their respective  countries.

3) The Ecumenical Patriarchate expresses its gratitude to all those working self-sacrificially within all health, medical, nursing, and research fields in order that this new pandemic be confronted and treated.

4) The Mother Church of Constantinople knows empirically from its two-thousand-year existence that Holy Communion is “the antidote to mortality” and remains firm in its Orthodox teaching regarding the Holy Eucharist.

5) It is considered self-evident that faith in God, as transcendence and not as the abolition of human reason, along with prayer strengthen the spiritual battle of every Christian. Therefore, the Mother Church of Constantinople urges its spiritual children throughout the world to intensify their petitions so that, strengthened and illumined by God, this contemporary tribulation may be overcome.

11 March 2020
From the Chief Secretariat of the Holy and Sacred Synod


Sunday of Orthodoxy at the Ecumenical Patriarchate

On 8 March 2020, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Cyprus (Primate of the Church of Cyprus), together with many hierarchs, celebrated the Sunday of Orthodoxy at the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the Patriarchal Church of Saint George.

In his address, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew welcomed at the Center of Orthodoxy the Primate of the Church of Cyprus, His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos and his suite, expressing his own warm greetings and congratulations as well as on behalf of the members of the Holy and Sacred Synod, the Patriarchal Court and the pious people of God.

“Any opposition to the matter of the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is not canonical. However, there are some who intend to harm the newly-established Orthodox Church of Ukraine with the aim of creating a secular institution, which, on the one hand, will be operating in contrast with ecclesial principles and tradition and, on the other hand, will be serving foreign interests in clear contradiction with Orthodox ecclesiology and the synodical character of the Orthodox Church”, stated Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in his speech, at the end of the Divine Liturgy. Patriarch Bartholomew made it clear that the decision to grant autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine “brought to light the canonical responsibility of the Ecumenical Throne and gave prominence to the canonical decisions taken by the Ecumenical Councils”. “The recognition of the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine from the other Orthodox Churches is the basic precondition for achieving unity within the Orthodox world,” he concluded. Continue reading

Fr Prof. Ioan Sauca appointed acting WCC general secretary

Fr Prof. Ioan Sauca has been appointed acting World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary beginning 1 April 2020. Fr Ioan Sauca, who currently serves as deputy general secretary for the WCC programme on Ecumenical Formation and Bossey Ecumenical Institute, will hold the general secretary post until the WCC Executive Committee meets in June 2020.

The leadership of the WCC Central Committee decided to postpone the full WCC Central Committee meeting, once slated for 18-24 March, along with the Executive Committee meeting that was to precede it in light of concerns about and implications of the current international spread of COVID 19 (coronavirus). Postponing the meetings incurs its own costs, both institutional and financial. The executive committee must appoint an acting general secretary to fill the vacant position as of 1 April, for the time after the departure of the present general secretary. The leadership of the central committee decided to appoint WCC deputy general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca as acting general secretary for the period from 1 April until the Executive Committee meets in June. Continue reading

The Ecumenical Patriarch’s Second Response to the Patriarch of Jerusalem

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sent an austere letter to Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem, a few days after the meeting with the delegation of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem at headquarters of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the Phanar (Istanbul), and on the eve of the “fraternal gathering of primates and delegates” taking place in Amman (Jordan) on 26 February 2020 with the participation of the primates of the Churches of Jerusalem, Russia, Serbia and of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, and of the delegates of the Churches of Romania and Poland.

We cannot understand how you overlook or even ignore the magnitude of the negative effects of this initiative,” wrote the Ecumenical Patriarch to the Patriarch of Jerusalem, while stressing that this “familial gathering” initiative only aims at “subverting the established norms and alienating the Orthodox Church from its ecclesiastical foundations.” Continue reading

Ecclesiology Seminar at Westminster Abbey

In preparation of the Lambeth Conference to be held between 22 July and 2 August 2020, a once-a-decade event gathering bishops of the Anglican Communion convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury for prayer, study and dialogue on Church and world issues, Westminster Abbey has organized an Ecclesiology Seminar on 17 February 2020 entitled: “Harvesting the fruits of bilateral dialogue”.

In partnership with the Anglican Communion Office, the Abbey is hosting a series of day events between November 2019 and April 2020. The international panels examine a range of themes from the fundamentals of Anglicanism to conflict and reconciliation. Canon Theologian at Westminster Abbey, Dr Jamie Hawkey, said, “The seminars will reflect on a specific theme related to Anglican identity, and the nature and mission of the Anglican Communion in the twenty-first century. Each day will include a number of papers and discussion, and conclude with insight from a distinguished ecumenical guest.” Continue reading

The Ecumenical Patriarchate hosted a meeting of the working group of the WCC Commission on World Mission and Evangelism

A special working group of the World Council of Churches Commission on World Mission and Evangelism met in Istanbul, Turkey on 16 February 2020 to further explore the place and profile of transforming discipleship in the life and work of churches globally. During the meeting the group on “Transforming Discipleship” worked on a document drafting that could best depict the shape of discipleship in the light of the Arusha Call.

The group was hosted and advised by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew who discussed with its members the procedure of drafting a statement on transforming discipleship. Among key aspects addressed were the de-centering of discipleship, the search for good news under colonial shadows, and the spirituality of discipleship. The group also addressed, from a missional perspective, the theme of the upcoming WCC assembly, “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity.”

The draft statement will be going through revisions and editing in the next few months. The document will be used primarily – but not only – as a springboard to the planning of different parts of the 11th WCC Assembly.

WCC launched a new journal on Interreligious dialogue

The World Council of Churches (WCC) launched of a new journal at the Ecumenical Centre on 7 February 2020: Current Dialogue, the pioneering World Council of Churches periodical on interreligious dialogue.

The journal, a biennial publication produced since 1980 by the staff of the WCC’s office for Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation, is now available through WCC’s journals publishing partner, Wiley, as an annual supplemental issue to The Ecumenical Review. Continue reading

Ecumenical Patriarch at the Interfaith Meeting in Abu Dhabi

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew underlined the important role that religions can play in preserving world peace and promoting respect for human dignity, in a spirit of solidarity and safeguarding of fundamental freedoms,  in the context of the interfaith meeting  organized on 4 February 2020 by the “International Commission on Human Brotherhood” in Abu Dhabi, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the signing, in the same city, of the “Declaration of Human Brotherhood” by the Pope of Rome and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar.

In his speech, the Ecumenical Patriarch noted among other things:

In our times, the credibility of religions depends largely on their commitment to peace through interreligious dialogue and common witness in view of the great contemporary challenges. Genuine religion cannot betray earth for the sake of heaven, the present for the sake of future. It does not absolve humans from their responsibility in the world and for the world. On the contrary, for true believers, faith is to be a presupposition to approach rightly the earthly reality and its contradictions; to resist injustice and all tendencies that undermine social cohesion; to exercise critique on the declaration of economic indicators and profit as the absolute criteria of economic activity; and to reject the subordination of man to the tyranny of needs and the transformation even of children into unsatisfiable consumerists. Continue reading

Middle East Council of Churches releases statement on fate of kidnapped bishops

The Middle East Council of Churches issued a statement related to the case and fate of two Archbishops, Boulos Yaziji and Mor Gregorius Youhanna Ibrahim, who were kidnapped on 22 April 2013.

“Over the past couple of months, many worrying reports and claims regarding the case and fate of the two Archbishops Boulos Yaziji and Mor Gregorius Youhanna Ibrahim who were kidnapped on April 22, 2013 in the western countryside of Aleppo – Syria, went viral in media outlets,” reads the statement. “The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, and the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, have been closely monitoring these reports that are totally independent from our relentless efforts and endeavors in the search for our two missing Archbishops and we are determined to leave no stone unturned until we identify their whereabouts and their fate.” Continue reading