Istanbul (AsiaNews) - The Orthodox patriarchate of Moscow has announced its withdrawal from the pan-Orthodox conference being held on the island of Rhodes, aimed at preparing for the synod that will take place in October in Constantinople. As has happened before on the occasion of the meeting with Catholics in Ravenna, the Church of Moscow explained its decision in relation to the presence of the Apostolic Estonian Church, which it does not recognise.
In a statement, the representatives of the other Orthodox Churches expressed their disappointment over this decision of the patriarchate of Moscow, calling upon it to reverse it. They are also asking Moscow representatives to explain whether this means that they have changed their minds about participating in the synod in October, or whether they will go as observers.
Many of the Orthodox at the meeting in Rhodes do not understand Moscow's insistence on the Estonian question, given the attempts at mediation by Constantinople, accepted by Moscow, and given that in 1917 Russia had recognised what today is the autonomous status of the Estonian Church, suppressed during the second world war with the annexation of Estonia by the Soviet empire.
But, as Bartholomew said years ago, what living organism does not have its problems? The Orthodox Church is and remains a strong and living organism that carries on its life in this manner, according to its tradition and history.
This is confirmed by the awarding of the Klauss Hemmerle prize to ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew, under strong lobbying from the Focolare movement, members of which went to Istanbul from all over the world, especially from Germany. The awarding of the prize (in the photo) was marked by a strong ecumenical characterisation. In his speech at the awarding of the prize, Cardinal Karl Lehman, in the presence of the diplomatic corps, praised Bartholomew's ecumenical role, "because he belongs to that rare group of people distinguished the building of bridges among Churches, religions, and diverse convictions". "This commitment has been long in the making, the fruit not only of his studies in various universities abroad, but also of his vast experience through participating in various initiatives, always with an uncommon mental openness". With his election in 1991, Bartholomew intensified both his ecumenical efforts and the dialogue among the Orthodox churches. He courageously reinforced the independence of some of these, and brought about the re-emergence of some of the churches of Eastern Europe, renewing ecclesial communion with the convening of interregional synods, which avoided various schisms. Here it can be clearly seen that the primacy of the ecumenical patriarchate - contrary to the thought of some Westerners - is much more than an honorific title. It is not the case that that the ecumenical patriarch should limit his thought solely to the ecclesiastical realm. For this reason, he works for the solution of serious contemporary problems like the environment, racism, nationalism. His attention is always turned toward the young people, representatives of the present and of the future.
Bartholomew said that he accepted the prize not for himself, but for the ecumenical patriarchate, highlighting the extremely important contribution to the ecumenical movement on the part of the Focolari, and in a particular way the role of their founder, Chiara Lubich. "This is a work that will continue", he said, "because it is willed by God. And we Christians are grateful to her". "Reflecting, I ask myself", Bartholomew continued, "where we have come from and how far we have come now. And I tell you, we do not have the right to stop or to turn back. Benedict's visit to Constantinople built a bridge between the two worlds, and our meeting in Naples again confirmed the importance of this bridge. We are preparing to go to Rome to celebrate together the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, but even more important will be our meeting in October in Rome, to speak together at the synod of bishops. We must move forward toward our one Lord, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit".
Meanwhile, calls are increasing for Bartholomew to be a Nobel peace prize nominee, which would be a recognition of his anticipation years in advance of issues that are now highly relevant, like the protection of the environment and interreligious dialogue. After Time, it was the authoritative English newspaper The Guardian, the other day, that exalted his role in safeguarding the environment.
Photo: Nikos Manginas