11/03/2020, 15.02
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Bartholomew I marks 29 years on the throne of the Church of Constantinople

by NAT da Polis

The Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch offers a brief account of his "diakonia": the Ukrainian question, intended to strengthen the unity of the Orthodox Church; the commitment of the Eastern Church in the contemporary world; the importance of the pan-Orthodox synod. Everything is "a gift of God ... History will judge us".

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I yesterday celebrated his 29th anniversary on the throne of the Church of Constantinople. In a brief but significant message, broadcast on state television in Cyprus, he gave a summary of his "diakonia" - as he defined it – at the Patriarchal See of Constantinople.

Three topics were touched upon.

1. The Ukrainian question, after the archbishop of Cyprus de facto recognized the 15th Orthodox Church, in the wake of the patriarchate of Alexandria and the Church of Greece. This fact provoked the ire of four metropolitans out of the 17 that make up the Cypriot synod (Athanasios of Limasol, Nikiforos of Kykkou, Isaias of Tamasou and Nikolaos Amathountos, who are part of the pro-Russian party). These metropolitans accuse the archbishop of having proceeded with the recognition, without prior convocation of the synod. For the record, the four metropolitans did not ask for the convocation of the synod, so as to pass the cancellation of the act of recognition. On the other hand, at least 9 of its 17 members are required for its convocation. The metropolitans have limited themselves to urging Chrysostomos to revoke his decision.

2. The challenges of the Orthodox world in the contemporary world.

3. The importance of the pan-Orthodox synod

Bartholomew began his message giving thanks to God for all that has been done on the apostolic throne of the patriarchate in these 29 years, but also during the almost 60 years of his priesthood. What happened was not due to its own merit, but a gift from God. He underlined that his diakonia had as its compass the words of the apostle Paul: "What do you have that you did not receive?" (I Corinthians 7,4), and those of St. John Chrysostom: "Glory to God for all things".

"My aim - he said - was the one pronounced during my inaugural speech: a diaconate of service for the unity of the Orthodox Church, which has its solid foundation in the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople, as established by the ecumenical synods, according to the Orthodox ecclesiological tradition of the first millennium”.

"According to this millenary tradition - continued the Orthodox primate - the role of the ecumenical patriarchate consists in working for the unity of the entire Orthodox Church. It is not up to history to judge or contest the role of the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople. However, it can, and must, evaluate, judge and express opinions and judgments on my humble work, during the exercise of my modest diakonia on the patriarchal throne ".

"In this context - he continued - taking on my responsibility, for the sole purpose of giving stability and unity to the Orthodox world, I proceeded to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church. This act was done with absolute certainty, as in this way order was restored, in full accordance with the canons of Orthodox ecclesiology. At the same time, both ecclesial life in Ukraine and the common Orthodox witness in the world have benefited”.

Bartholomew underlined that "the questioning of the shared ecclesiological tradition and its canons, in the name of interests that originate outside the Church itself, certainly undermine the foundations of the unity of the Orthodox Church and transform it into a secularized institution, into a confederation of churches, where partisan interests prevail, to the detriment of the whole body of the Church”.

"Therefore - he continued - the recognition of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church also by the archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos, preceded in time by that of the Church of Greece and the patriarchate of Alexandria, falls within the Orthodox ecclesiological tradition, as indeed it followed in granting autocephaly to Russia, Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, etc. Therefore, it is also up to them to follow the same path”.

Bartholomew defined Archbishop Chrysostmos, a "brave man of great visions and brother of shared dreams". He then added that the efforts of the Orthodox Church must focus on addressing the issues and problems that afflict the contemporary world, such as the safeguarding of creation, respect for the sacredness of the human person, the development of the culture of solidarity, interreligious dialogue, in as a vector of peace. And he specified: “The refusal to dialogue in the name of the purity of one tradition, favours fundamentalist tendencies also in the body of the Orthodox Church. "

These last topics were touched upon, discussed and approved during the pan-Orthodox synod which took place in June 2016 in Crete, but where, shortly before the beginning, Russia, Bulgaria, Georgia and Antioch were absent for various reasons. The Synod had had a long gestation, and gave the Orthodox planet the opportunity to reappear and confront the contemporary world after centuries of silent absence.

Finally, Bartholomew concluded: “During these 29 years, we have tried to implement my programmatic promises. We certainly haven't been able to complete everything. But as we mentioned earlier, history will be our judge”.

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