In Memoriam Pope Benedict XVI (1927-2022)

The Pope emeritus Benedict XVI died on 31 December 2022 at his residence, Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, in the Vatican. He was 95 years old. His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, in his customary speech, in the Throne Hall of the Patriarchal Residence, after the Divine Liturgy for the feast of the Circumcision of the Lord and the memory of Saint Basil, during which he officiated on New Year’s morning in the Patriarchal Church in the Phanar, referred to the late Pope Benedict XVI:

I would like to say two additional words of remembrance with respect and love and gratitude to the recently deceased Pope Benedict XVI, who at the beginning of his Pontifical Primate ministry officially visited our Ecumenical Patriarchate. Here, in this hall, we signed a joint declaration. We worked together repeatedly. When the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church met years ago in the Vatican, in the Sistine Chapel, he had invited me as the official keynote speaker to address the Cardinals and Bishops, on the subject of the Word of God, which took place in the context of a vespers that was celebrated in the Sistine Chapel. Benedict XVI was a great theologian, German by origin as you know, for a number of years a university professor, he also had orthodox students, among whom the later Archbishop of Australia Stylianos and the later Metropolitan of Switzerland Damascene, and I myself heard from Benedict saying that he got to know Orthodoxy better thanks to his Orthodox students, and in fact the aforementioned elite Orthodox theologians and Hierarchs. May his memory be eternal. He had the fortitude and courage to resign only eight years after his election as Bishop of Rome. He could go on because he was in good health, but he decided that he had to end the mandate, and that was about five hundred, six hundred years after the last Pope of Rome had resigned. At his funeral, which will take place next Thursday [5 January 2023], our Ecumenical Patriarchate will be represented by His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon and His Eminence Metropolitan Polykarpos of Italy. May his memory be eternal.

His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sent the following letter of condolence to the Primate of the Roman Catholic Church, His Holiness Pope Francis, for the repose of his late predecessor Pope Benedict XVI:

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11th Academic Consultation between Judaism and Orthodox Christianity

The 11th Academic Consultation between Judaism and Orthodox Christianity took place on 4-6 December, 2022, in Vienna, Austria. The theme was “Jewish-Orthodox Christian Dialogue: Navigating Our Relations to the World and to Each Other.” The Consultation was co-sponsored by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC). 

The Orthodox Christian delegation to the Consultation was led by His Eminence Elder Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon. The Jewish delegation to the Consultation was led by IJCIC’s chair, Rabbi Dr. David Sandmel, representing the Anti-Defamation League. The gathering marked the 45th anniversary of the dialogue and was held at the Bristol Hotel in the Austrian capital. 

A highlight of the Consultation was the visit to the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where the joint delegation of Jewish and Orthodox Christian leaders was received by the Secretary General for Foreign Affairs Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, with a formal reception. He thanked the leadership of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and IJCIC for choosing Vienna as the location for the Consultation. The local Jewish and Orthodox Christian religious leadership and other Austrian government officials joined the warm welcome. 

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The Ecumenical Patriarch participated in the World Policy Conference and the G20 Interfaith Forum in Abu Dhabi

His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew participated in two International Conferences of Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue in Abu Dhabi on 9-13 December, 2022.

In a new resounding condemnation of the war in Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarch in his speech at the opening of the International Conference “World Policy Conference – For a Reasonably Open World”, underlined that the ongoing war has led to the death of thousands of people, Ukrainians and Russians, while the damage to infrastructure on the territory of Ukraine is incalculable.

His Holiness, in his extensive speech, before dignitaries from all over the world, referred to the historical spiritual ties of the Kievan Rus with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, from which they received baptism into Christianity, in the 10th century, and to the attempts to undermine the Patriarchal Church of of Constantinople and its role in the Orthodox world from Russia, after the Fall of the City, and especially from the 19th century, when in combination with the doctrine of pan-Slavism, it instrumentalized religious sentiment to achieve political and military purposes alien to it. This attitude, which aimed at the removal of the Slavic believers from their Mother Church and the promotion of Moscow as the “Third Rome”, led the Ecumenical Patriarchate to condemn it, in 1872, as a heresy, the heresy of ethnophylitism, which comes in blatant opposition to the universality of the Gospel message, but also to the ancient tradition of organization and administration of the Church.

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The Ecumenical Patriarchate hosted an International Conference on the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea

His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew opened with his extensive address on 1 December, 2022, the two-day International Conference entitled: “Πιστεύομεν. The Status Quaestionis and the Neglected Topics of Nicaea and its Creed”. The Congress held in view of the completion of 1700 years since the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, in the year 2025, was placed under the auspices of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and organized in collaboration with the Italian Foundation “Fondazione per le Scienze Religiose”. Hierarchs and distinguished researchers from various Christian Churches and Confessions participated and presented papers.

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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 30 November 2022 with a solemn Divine Liturgy presided by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in concelebration with their Eminences the Senior Metropolitan Apostolos of Derka and the Metropolitans Nikandros of Irinoupolis, Polykarpos of Italy, Isaia of Tamasos and Orini (Church of Cyprus), Stephanos of Kallipolis and Madytos, Elpidophoros of America, Gerasimos of Petra and Cheronissos, Kyrillos of Ierapetra and Sitian Vissarion of Spain and Portugal, Andrew of Saranta Ekklesies and Archbishop Agapitos of Vyshhorod (Church of Ukraine) in the Patriarchal Church of St. George, at the Phanar. The homily was preached by His Eminence Metropolitan Bartholomew of Smyrna.

The Divine Liturgy was attended by the official delegation of the Church of Rome headed by His Eminence Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, by His Eminence Archbishop Nektarios of Anthedon (Representative of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem), as well as by the Very Reverend Archimandrite Georgios Christodoulou (Chief Secretary of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece), His Excellency Mr. Christodoulos Lazaris (Ambassador of Greece in Ankara), Mrs. Georgia Sultanopoulou (Consul General of Greece in the City), Mr. Roman Nedilskyi (Consul General of Ukraine in the City), as well as many clergy, monastics and faithful from the City and from abroad.

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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Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Bahrain Forum for Dialogue

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew participated in the Bahrain Forum for Dialogue “East and West for Human Coexistence” which took place on 3-5 November 2022 in the Kingdom of Bahrain under the patronage of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and which was attended by many eminent intellectual figures and representatives of religions from different countries. The program of the forum featured sessions that highlight the promotion of global coexistence and human fraternity, dialogue and peaceful coexistence and present the Bahrain Declaration as a model to be emulated.

During his visit, on 3 November, His All-Holiness met with His Eminence Dr. Ahmed Al – Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and Chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders, as well as with His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and Prime Minister.

On 4 November, the Ecumenical Patriarch joined Pope Francis as well as other Christian leaders from the region for an Ecumenical Meeting and Prayer for Peace at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia in Awali. On the same day, the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch had a private meeting to discuss topics of common interest.

International Meeting of Dialogue and Prayer for Peace among World Religions

The International Meeting of Dialogue and Prayer for Peace among World Religions “The Cry For Peace” took place in Rome on 23-25 October 2022 under the initiative of the Community of Sant’Egidio. The meeting was held on two levels:

– The conference at the ‘La Nuvola’ Congress Centre in Rome, which opened in plenary on 23 October with the voices of great representatives of the political-institutional world: Andrea Riccardi, Italian President Sergio Mattarella, the French President Emmanuel Macron and Mohamed Bazoum from Niger, a key country in the fight against jihadism and the transit of migrants. These voices were echoed by those of religions: Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, the French rabbi Haim Korsia, the secretary of the Islamic World League, Al Issa, together with young witnesses to the tragedy of the war in Ukraine. On 24-25 October, a series of forums addressed highly relevant issues, such as the ecological question, migration, the value of saving lives, the war that challenges Europe, and more religious topics, such as prayer, the Word of God, and a common Easter, a crucial theme of ecumenical dialogue. Speakers included His Eminence Elder Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

– The ceremony of Prayer for Peace at the Colosseum on 25 October, with the presence of Pope Francis and representatives of world religions.

This event was not only born as a reaction to the current moment of war, but was also connected to a long history of commitment of Sant’Egidio for peace, as also signified by the 30th anniversary of peace in Mozambique, celebrated a few days ago. The current situation in the world, in fact, called for new ways of dialogue, in a common effort to imagine an alternative to the current scenario of war and build peace.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visited the Great Britain

On 20-25 October, 2022, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visited Great Britain to celebrate the Centenial of the Holy Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain. The visit included the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of John the Baptist in Essex on 22 October and the Patriarchal and Hierarchical Concelebration of the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of the Divine Wisdom on 23 October, as well as his presence at the Even Song at St James on 23 October, and a breakfast with the London Christian leaders on 24 October.

On 25 October, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew met with His Majesty King Charles III at Buckingham Palace. During their half hour private meeting, His All-Holiness expressed once again his condolences for the death of the King’s Mother, Queen Elizabeth II, as well as his prayers and best wishes on behalf of the Mother Church for a successful and fruitful reign. The Patriarch also mentioned the centenary anniversary celebrations of the Holy Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain, as well as other topics of mutual interest.

Meeting of the International Commission for Anglican–Orthodox Theological Dialogue

In the name of the Triune God and with the blessing and guidance of our Churches, the International Commission for Anglican–Orthodox Theological Dialogue (ICAOTD) met in Athens from the 7th to the 14th of October 2022, hosted by the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, at the Inter-Orthodox Centre in the Monastery of Penteli.

The Commission is grateful for the hospitality and welcome received from His Beatitude Archbishop Hieronymos of Athens and all Greece, and His Eminence Metropolitan John of Thermopylae, Abbot of the Monastery of Penteli.

The Commission discussed at length and finalised an agreed statement on Dying Well, Living Well: Our Sure and Certain Hope (The Penteli Statement). The Commission began discussions on organ donation and intends to continue consideration of this topic at its next meeting.

As in previous meetings, the work of the Commission was undergirded by daily prayer and worship. Members of the Commission attended a celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the Monastery of Penteli, where we remembered with thanksgiving to God the lives and contribution to the Dialogue of former members of the Commission who died this year 2022, the late Metropolitans Kallistos of Diokleia and Ilia of Philomelion.

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Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the 11th Assembly of the WCC in Karlsruhe

The Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, presently taking place in Karlsruhe (Germany) from 31 August until 8 September 2022, is headed by Elder Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon (Turkey) and composed of Metropolitan Iosif of Buenos Aires (Argentina), Metropolitan Job of Pisidia (Turkey), Bishop Athenagoras of Nazianzos (USA), Grand Synkellos Iakovos Krochak (Turkey), Archimandrite Stefan Toma (Germany), Protopresbyter Nicolas Kazarian (USA), Patriarchal Deacon Œcumenius Amanatidis (Turkey), Mr. Dionysios Bozikis (Australia), Mrs. Eleni Cho (Korea), Mrs. Kristina Mantasasvili (Greece), Mrs. Sofiya Maskat (Canada), Mrs. Marie Panayotopoulos (Austria), Mr. Georgios Vlantis (Germany), Mrs. Natallia Vasilevich (Germany) and Mrs. Angeliki Ziaka (Greece).