Mass was celebrated with the permission of Turkish authorities in an atmosphere that was different from the past. The function was disrupted in 2006 by members of a Turkish ultranationalist group, the Gray Wolves.
The presence of locals was most noteworthy as they stood or sat beside Christians from the nearby Greek islands.
Metropolitan Zizioulas began his homily by mentioning that right in these regions, where Our Lord’s favourite brother, John the Evangelist, also called the John the Theologian, spread the Christian message, he and those present were celebrating together on that day all the martyrs and predecessors, in order to proclaim aloud that Christ is risen.
“This is the greatness of our Church,” Ioannis Zizioulas said, “which seeks to pass on the faith and the certainty of the message of the Resurrection, the victory of life over death, because death is not the last word in our life. Hatred, violence and evil are also not the last words in our life because they are defeated by Our Lord.”
The Orthodox Church, he added, interprets and passes on this message in a number of ways. In particular, it does so through the Holy Mass, which represents the union of the living and the dead in a single body, that of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
“All of us, united in this Holy Mass, can say that time shall not rule us, that the past shall not bind us to all its evils, perpetuating its hatred, fears and tricks. We must free our minds from all these bonds, which uselessly hold us to the past, and turn instead to the future.”
The greatest wisdom in the history of humanity came from these lands, the metropolitan said. It is found in a single word, that of charity, love. The ancient world, which in these lands reached the top in human knowledge, was never able to conceive this wisdom, the wisdom of this one word, love. John the Evangelist brought this message to these lands, Zizioulas said.
Turning to the ecumenical patriarch, he said that thanks to his intense and persistent work for peaceful coexistence among the peoples of these lands, he was able to overcome fears, and got Turkish authorities to issue the permits needed to celebrate Mass in places that saw the birth and growth of the Christian message.
With a voice broken by emotion, Bartholomew said, “We came here to remind them that we are alive and have never forgotten them.”
Photo: Nikos Manginas