12/01/2020, 17.10
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Bartholomew: moving towards full unity with confidence

by NAT da Polis

The celebration for Saint Andrew, apostle and founder of the Church of Constantinople, was held in the presence of a Catholic delegation. “For us it is particularly important that the dialogue of truth in charity, which is in its 40th year, be accompanied by initiatives to jointly bear witness in the world”.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – The celebrations of the founder and patron of the Church of Constantinople, the Apostle Andrew, took place yesterday in the Phanar, seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

The annual celebration follows the ancient Byzantine tradition, but this year took place under the sign of the COVID-19 pandemic, which limited the participation of the faithful to the number allowed by health regulations.

Following a more recent but well-established tradition, the Holy See was represented by a delegation, headed by Cardinal Kurt Koch that included Bishop Brian Farrell and Monsignor Andrea Palmieri.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal was also present at the celebrations at the helm of a delegation representing his government.

At the end of the divine liturgy, Bartholomew delivered his homily stressing the importance of dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox, which began precisely 40 years ago. In this context, the new challenges of a now globalised world in constant turmoil push us to breathe new life into this work, in the diachronic tradition of the Gospel message, so as to bear witness and provide answers to the questions of today’s world.

The Patriarch began by noting that the pandemic itself prevented a patriarchal delegation from travelling to Rome for the feast day of Peter and Paul on 29 June, which also meant that they could take part in the joint commission of dialogue between the two Churches.

This dialogue followed Vatican II and took the form of diplomatic talks between the two Churches, developing eventually into a theological dialogue in a spirit of mutual charity.

"Let us proceed,” said Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, “with tenacity and realism and with full trust in Divine Providence, on that path that will lead us to the goal of the much-desired full unity, above all those who see little value in theology (so-called theological minimalism) or who consider ecumenism to be a utopia. For this is the will of our Lord. The Pan-Orthodox Synod held in Crete in 2016 confirmed the priority of dialogue for the full unity of Christians.”

“For us it is particularly important that the dialogue of truth in charity, which is in its 40th year, be accompanied by initiatives to jointly bear witness in the world in the face of current thorny problems, with actions inspired by the fundamental principles of the Gospel, model of man renewed in Christ, in mutual trust and loving cooperation.”

The Ecumenical Patriarch stressed that he and Pope Francis share the same concerns and sensitivities, but also opinions on how to face the great challenges of our time.

"We support all those initiatives that promote peace and reconciliation,” he said. “Let us make the Church’s philanthropic message our own, promoting brotherhood and solidarity, social justice and respect for human rights. Let us be involved in the effort to address the causes and consequences of today’s great refugee and immigration crises.

“We are shocked by the tragic episodes of violence [carried out] in the name of God and religion. This once again reveals the value and importance of interfaith dialogue, peace and cooperation between religions in order to avoid and discredit such extremist behaviour and restore mutual respect.”

For Bartholomew, the recent Encyclical of His Holiness Pope Francis Fratelli Tutti strikingly highlights the multidimensional concerns of the Church of Rome in the face of great social challenges. A similar text, the result of our commission, based on the considerations of the Synod of Crete on the social ethics of the Orthodox Church, was published three months ago and is having an interesting response.

Bartholomew added that moral and anthropological questions are of great relevance, so as to allow us to speak of a paradigm shift in ecumenical terms.

Obviously, for the Patriarch, pluralism must not be reduced to a nihilistic tool that threatens social cohesion, leading to the breakup of the Christian identity and divisions in the life of the Church.

It is not possible for the Church of Christ to accept parallel monologues and the coexistence of opposites within her, nor can she adapt the moral and anthropological principles inspired by God to the "alternative choices" of modern secularised civilisation. The life of the Church itself is a lasting response over time to the questions of anthropology and morality.

In this spirit, the Patriarch explained that formulating a jointly accepted Christian anthropology and de facto respect of its principles will be an important support in the path of relations between our Churches.

Only then will the Church be able to walk and engage in dialogue on the path of truth and charity, sources of true life and freedom in Christ. Only then can bearing witness be shared.

Speaking about his meeting with Pope Francis last month in Rome, Patriarch Bartholomew noted that “every face-to-face meeting with his brother Pope Francis is a special experience of brotherhood, which reinforces the desire of both to fight hand in hand in hand in our march towards the Common Chalice of the Eucharist.”

Finally, Bartholomew insisted that the diakonia and martyrdom of the two apostles and founding brothers of the two Churches, Peter and Andrew, must strengthen us in our work of witness and diakonia of the Gospel of salvation.

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