Istanbul (AsiaNews) – Being Christian means feeling that one is part of the “Body” that is the Church as well as part of the secularised world to which one brings the Gospels, taking what is good in globalization without identifying with it. This, in a nutshell, are the main points around which the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I articulated his opening address to the Second Orthodox Youth Conference, titled Members of the Church, Citizens of the World, that brought together 600 delegates in representation of the various Orthodox Churches, institutions and foundations.
Representatives of other Christian Churches and the diplomatic corps were also present. Police presence was impressive but discreet. Metropolitan Gennadios, co-president of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, and Elpidoforos, secretary of the Sacred Synod, chaired the session. The first part of Bartholomew’s address was theological in nature; the second part was more political.
“The Church is not an institution, a foundation or an association,” he said, “ but a Body, the Body of our Lord, who the Hypostasised Only-Begotten Son and Logos of God, whose parts we are, all those who were baptised in his name and are mystically in communion with His Body and His blood, shed for our salvation. We are cells of His Body, i.e. His Church, but also cells of one another as Saint Paul said. Only our obedience to the will of the Divine Head and our mutual love and respect for the personality and charisma of others establish the Body’s proper functioning. Any departure in favour of one’s own interest results in the Body’s functioning improperly.”
The patriarch urged young people to fell “as part of this Body of Christ, which is our Church.” “You are called to function as cells and play your role as deacons of the Lord,” he said. You are “therefore in the service of your fellow man according to your God-given talent and charisma – with the parish, the Church, the community must be a point of reference and brotherhood.”
Parts of a single Church, Bartholomew noted, but at the same time “citizens of different countries that convey certain obligations and privileges. Or course, the world is no Paradise and the condition of the world is not ideal for Christians. The whole world lies in evil, said John the Evangelist; the world has not accepted Christ as its ruler. Let us be in the world, but let us not be in line with the evil purposes of the world. Think of the fish, how they are not made of salt, in spite of the fact that they live and swim in the salt-filled sea.”
“We live in a globalised world that has done away with distance. This is a double-edged sword. There is good, and there is bad. For example, the EU (European Union), which we hope and pray will not delay the accession of Turkey, has limited the significance of national boundaries.”
But the question remains: “what role for Christians in a globalised world. The answer is that we must not become secularised, nor identify with it. We must use the instruments that it offers us with discretion and within reason, ad majorem Dei gloriam as Western Christians say. Let us not forget that the majority of humankind really does not have even an idea of Christ and His Gospel. It is tragic that the so-called ‘golden arches’ of McDonalds are better known in the modern world than the Sign of the Cross?” (NT)
PHOTO: Nikos Manginas