Message to His All Holiness Bartholomew I
Feast of St. Andrew 2007
Your All Holiness,
I greet you with the words of the first of the apostles, Peter, the brother of the Prwtoklhtoz, the first-called of the apostles, Andrew, whose feast we are celebrating here today in this venerable Cathedral:
Xariz umin kai eirhnh plhqunqeih. “Grace and peace be yours in abundance”.
(1 Peter 1:2).
With you, All Holiness, I greet all the Metropolitans, the bishops and clergy, and all the faithful of the Church of Constantinople, Sister Church of the Church of Rome. And how could I address Your Holiness this year without mentioning, with joy and gratitude in the depths of my heart, the kind hospitality and brotherly love with which you received the Bishop of Rome, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, one year ago in this very place?
How could I not recall how our hearts rejoiced when you embraced each other as brothers, and when you held hands and lifted them on high on the balcony of this Ecumenical Patriarchate, demonstrating to the world your shared willingness to overcome hundreds of years of estrangement and, with the blessing and help of God, to go forward on the path of reconciliation in order to fulfil the prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ on the eve of his suffering and death? It was a clear sign that you both intended to move ahead, with God’s grace, towards the goal of partaking at the same table of the Lord and drinking from the same chalice. The celebration of the Divine Liturgy at which we have just assisted enabled us to direct our gratitude to our Lord, the one High Priest of the Church and the Bishop of our souls.
The way to the lofty goal I mentioned may still be steep and difficult. It is not for us to fix dates and times. They are in God’s hands and in his providence. But in the meantime we experience again with gratitude that our hope and our desire for full communion are not empty wishes. Only some weeks ago we had the joy and the satisfaction of meeting under the co-presidency of His Eminence Metropolitan John Zizioulas with delegates of all the Orthodox Churches in the ancient and famous city of Ravenna, so highly symbolic of the unity between East and West during the whole first Millennium. We were able to arrive at a joint statement which can rightly be called a first step and a good solid basis for our further dialogue to restore unity in the Third Millennium which has just begun. We are deeply grateful to God, the Giver of all good things, and to all the members of the Joint Commission for this important achievement.
We are saddened and deeply regret that there remained an empty place at that table. We ask that everything possible be done to fill this space again so that next time all may return to the common table of our brotherly discussions, so that all can offer their contribution to unity and peace.
Our hearts rejoiced again when a couple of weeks ago Your All Holiness met Pope Benedict again, together with many other distinguished religious leaders, at the meeting in Naples on friendship and reconciliation between religions and nations.
Yes, the unity of all Christ’s disciples is necessary if we are to offer the common Christian witness of non-violence, tolerance, mutual respect, justice and peace, which our world so urgently needs. It is already a great blessing that we are eager to work together for this sacred purpose and for the good of all mankind.
In this sense and with these feelings of gratitude and joy I wish to make myself a humble messenger of the greetings which His Holiness Pope Benedict has addressed to your All Holiness in a Letter that I now have the honour to read in this eminent assembly.