The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I received an honorary doctorate of philosophy from the Pontifical Antonianum University in Rome on the occasion of the start of the academic year. For the patriarch, “the reason for progress is false and inappropriate, when the house of humankind is destroyed and people are mowed down.” In his view, “All attempts to establish a just society need a reference to an ‘Absolute’. For us this 'Absolute' is Jesus Christ”.
Rome (AsiaNews) – The Pontifical Antonianum University of Rome awarded the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I an honorary doctorate of philosophy on the occasion of the start of its academic year. Yesterday, the Patriarch also took part in a prayer for Fraternity and Peace in the Italian capital.
In his address during the opening ceremony, Bartholomew called for the promotion of a culture of respect for creation, for building bridges of dialogue among Christians and towards believers of other faiths as well as non-believers, and for the proper space of religions in giving humankind the meaning of life, even against an economy that feels entitled to impose its law of maximisation of profits everywhere.
In looking at the "Ecumenical Patriarchate in the contemporary world: vision and social witness", Bartholomew said first of all that "the function of the Church of Constantinople, as the vital centre of the life of the entire Orthodox world, stems from its constant ministry in bearing witness, protecting and disseminating the Christian faith.”
The Patriarchate, Bartholomew added, played a “pioneering” in promoting the protection of creation since the mid-1980s. “For us, taking care of the natural resources of our planet is a question of truthfulness towards God and the created order. That is why we have repeatedly condemned environmental abuse as nothing but a sin.
“We must remember that caring for the environment is not primarily a political or technological issue; it is above all a religious and ethical question. In this sense, we have a responsibility to carefully consider how we inhabit the world. Since we are social beings and we share this world, we cannot live as isolated individuals, indifferent to the events around us. We have been created for personal outreach; we are judged as people, societies and nations on the basis of that interaction.”
“It is evident,” he noted, “that the reason for progress is false and inappropriate when the house of humankind is destroyed and people are mowed down. With this spirit, we bless every initiative that raises awareness of the gravity of the present environmental crisis and related social problems, and highlights the need for a radical change in ways of thinking and an assessment of today’s humankind.”
The Patriarchate is also concerned about "dialogue with believers of all faiths and, also, with people unconnected to religion”. In this regard, Bartholomew cited the "functions" that are generally attributed to religion: "a) religion provides answers to humankind’s deep existential questions like the meaning of life, pain and death, origins and final destination; b) religion has created and preserved the highest achievements of culture, the most precious spiritual values of humankind and a profound anthropological knowledge; c) religion is intrinsically linked to the identity of peoples and cultures; d) religion is a mission and a responsibility for peace. The credibility of religions around the world is linked to their contribution to reconciliation and the promotion of peace, which cannot succeed without interfaith dialogue and harmony between religions.”
“It is overly utopian to expect that solidarity and social cohesion can be established via globalisation, economic progress, improved standards of living, science and technology, digital communication and the Internet. It is impossible for a world of peace and justice to exist without the contribution of the great spiritual powers of humanity, that is to say, religions.”
From this comes the commitment to dialogue and the great importance that Bartholomew attributes to the "precious" Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together signed in Abu Dhabi on 4 February 2019, by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb. In it "we find the common compass that guides our way towards universal peace and a culture of solidarity.”
“We need one another; we need shared goals; we need collaborative efforts. We are called to build bridges based on love and understanding, not walls of exclusion based on fear and ignorance. We must be critical of all trends that undermine solidarity and are opposed to anything that reduces human beings to insatiable consumers at the expense of their neighbours. We are called to find ways to avoid conflicts between races or clashes of civilisations, respect differences, defend rights and promote dialogue for the sake of a better and brighter world.”
“The future does not belong to the self-consecrated 'man-god', the new Prometheus who ignores or abolishes undeniable limits and measures. All attempts to establish a just society need a reference to an 'Absolute'.”
“For us this 'Absolute' is Jesus Christ, the 'God-Man', the 'God with us', (Mt 21:23) and God 'for us all’ (Rom 8:32), the Saviour who came ‘down from heaven’ (Jn 3:13), who opened the gates of Heaven for us, 'our hope' (1 Tim 1:11). Faith in Christ is an inexhaustible source of creativity, freedom 'which becomes true in love' in the world. In all dimensions of life, it inspires and strengthens human efforts, even when faced with problems that are difficult to solve and have no way out.” (FP)