Η ΕΠΙΣΤΟΛΗ ΤΟΥ ΟΙΚΟΥΜΕΝΙΚΟΥ ΠΑΤΡΙΑΡΧΗ
At the audience, Archbishop Job of Telmessos read the following letter from His All-Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, addressed to His Holiness Pope Francis:
The great feast of the Holy, Glorious and All-Praiseworthy Chiefs of the Apostles, Peter and Paul, is truly an occasion of much joy and celebration for the Church of Rome—where the saintly apostles received their crown of martyrdom—as well as for the Church throughout the entire oikoumene, which through them received the message of Christ’s Good News. Therefore, we, too, share your festive sentiments and spiritually join in your celebration through the continuation of the blessed tradition of exchanging delegations on the occasion of our respective Thronal Feasts. Your Holiness, our fraternal congratulatory wishes on this feast are personally conveyed through our Patriarchal Delegation, led by His Excellency Archbishop Job of Telmessos, Co-President of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between our two Sister Churches, His Grace Bishop Theodoretos of Nazianzus, and the Reverend Deacon Alexandros Koutsis, Secretary of this year’s venerable delegation.
We sing in a hymn for this glorious feast, the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, “citizens of the Jerusalem on high, the rock of the faith, the preachers of the Church of Christ, the pair of the Trinity, the fishers of the world, leaving behind today the things on earth, have journeyed in truth to God, and they implore Him with boldness that our souls may be saved.” (Vespers of the Feast) Their witness of the truth of the Gospel’s message, as well as their testimony in deed throughout the course of their lives up until their martyrdom, serve as a constant reminder to all of us for what the genuine Christian example is in the contemporary world, and, in this sense, is a model and a paradigm. As Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Hebrews exhorts us, we shall remember them “who spoke the word of God to [us]. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” (Heb. 13:7)
The proclamation of the Gospel of Christ in today’s secularized world, based on the model of the mission of the Glorious Apostles Peter and Paul, is an obligation for both of our Churches. To this end, the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church that convened on the island of Crete in June 2016, emphasised in its Message that “the re-evangelization of God’s people in modern, secularized societies and the evangelization of those who have still not come to know Christ remain an unceasing obligation for the Church.” Christian unity is a required presupposition to efficiently fulfil this mission of the Church. Our common witness in the face of our contemporary world’s numerous challenges constitutes a positive testimony for the Church of Christ and for bringing us closer together to achieving this unity. After all, it is in our common actions that we experience the strength of unity and solidarity becoming increasingly conscious of the misfortune of division.
It is this sense, then, that the theological dialogue, which has continued for nearly forty years between our sister Churches, constitutes a priority and can provide us with much hope. We are especially delighted that the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue is now entering into a new phase and that the Coordinating Committee, which met last September on the island of Leros, has chosen as a topic for the next stage of the dialogue: Towards Unity in Faith: Theological and Canonical Issues. Indeed, jointly reflecting on the theological and canonical issues that remain unresolved is essential to restoring communion between our Sister Churches. As we are aware, drafting committees are already working on this topic, as well as on the very important theme of “Primacy and Synodality in the Second Millennium and Today.” We pray that the Coordinating Committee meeting next November in the Monastery of Bose will succeed in finalizing these two documents. And it is our hope that the divisions of the past may be overcome in order to bring a common witness to our contemporary world “so that with one mind and one voice we may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 15:6)
Of course, our common witness in the world cannot be limited only to theological dialogue, but also should include common action when facing the challenges of our times. Therefore, we were particularly delighted to personally meet with you this past May during our visit to your See, and to address the Centesimus Annus Foundation on their 25th anniversary. In our address, entitled “A Common Christian Agenda for the Common Good,” we reiterated our deep conviction that the future of humanity is related to the resistance against the “crisis of solidarity” by the establishment of a culture of solidarity in the fields of economy and ecology, science and technology, as well as society and politics. As we concluded, we are called to continue our common journey, our theological dialogue, our common struggle and our common Christian witness of love.
Therefore, filled with hope, we look forward to meeting with you and the heads of the Christian Churches of the Middle East in Bari next month in order to pray and reflect on peace and reconciliation. We are certain that our role as Churches is crucial for peace on the earth. True peace in the world is not simply the absence of war but essentially the presence of freedom, justice and solidarity. The world expects our Churches to guide people to the depth of this truth, to a change of mind and life, and to a mutual understanding. In this sense, the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church underlined that “Honest interfaith dialogue contributes to the development of mutual trust and to the promotion of peace and reconciliation. […] True peace is not achieved by force of arms, but only through love that ‘does not seek its own.’ (1 Cor 13:5) The oil of faith must be used to soothe and heal the wounds of others, not to rekindle new fires of hatred.” (Encyclical, par. 17)
Your Holiness, dearest Brother Francis, as we celebrate today the Thronal Feast of the Church of Rome, we repeat our deepest desire for our common advancement on the journey towards the communion of our Churches; as our hymnography claims: “A joyous feast has shone out today on the ends of the earth, the all-honored memorial of the wisest Apostles and their princes, Peter and Paul; and so Rome dances and rejoices. Let us also, brethren, celebrate in songs and psalms this allrevered day” (Aposticha, Vespers of the Feast).
We pray that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may grant you health, strength, peace and length of days to continue your ministry for the precious souls entrusted to your Papal care and wisdom. Conveying to Your Holiness, the venerable Hierarchs and the Christ-loving faithful of your Church, our warmest greetings, we embrace you fraternally and remain with much honor and love in the Lord—who we pray will strengthen our faith and lead us towards unity.
At the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the twenty-ninth of June, 2018
Your Holiness’ beloved brother in Christ,
Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch
Pope: Prayerful hopes for greater experience of unity
On the eve of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Pope Francis receives the traditional delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
By Christopher Wells - vaticannews
Pope Francis on Thursday received members of a delegation representing the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, the primus inter pares (first among equals) of the heads of the autocephalous churches the make up the Eastern Orthodox Church.
At the audience, Pope Francis welcomed the delegation as a “a sign of the growth of communion between the Catholic Church and the Ecumenical Patriarch,” while also recalling “the common roots of our sister Churches.”
The Holy Father spoke in his address about a “gradual dimming of the light of faith” in many traditionally Christian societies, marked by “contempt for the dignity of the human person, the idolatry of money, the spread of violence, a totalizing view of science and technology, [and] the reckless exploitation of natural resources.” Quoting Bartholomew, Pope Francis said we must reject the “cynical phrase ‘there is no alternative.’” Rather, “our Churches can create new possibilities of transformation for our world.”
He continued, “It is comforting for me to realize that this convergence of views with my beloved brother Bartholomew is being translated into a concrete common effort.” Among those common efforts, he noted initiatives aimed at combating modern forms of slavery, protecting creation, and promoting peace. The Pope also looked forward to a meeting with the Heads of Churches and Christian Communities of the Middle East, which the Ecumenical Patriarch will also be attending.
“It is my prayerful hope,” Pope Francis said, “that there will be increased opportunities for us Catholics and Orthodox at all levels to work together, pray together and proclaim together the one Gospel of Jesus Christ received from the apostolic preaching, in order to experience ever fully in our shared journey the unity that by God’s grace already joins us.”
The now customary audience is taking place in the context of the mutual exchange of delegations for the feasts of the heavenly patrons of respective Churches: the visit of the Orthodox delegation to Rome for the feast of Sts Peter and Paul being reciprocated with a Catholic delegation to Constantinople (modern Istanbul) for the feast of St Andrew at the end of November. The delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarch is being led by Archbishop Job of Telmissos, the co-president of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, who is accompanied by Theodoretos, Bishop of Nazianzos, and Deacon Alexander Koutsis.
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