10/19/2008, 00.00
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Bartholomew: speaking at the synod, "a unique event of extraordinary importance"

by NAT da Polis
The satisfaction of the ecumenical patriarch, who yesterday reiterated the importance of the conclusions of the meeting in Ravenna between Catholics and Orthodox, at which it was affirmed that the interdependence of primacy and collegiality characterizes all levels of the Church's life, local, regional, and universal.

Rome (AsiaNews) - "Satisfaction" over participating at the synod of Catholic bishops at the invitation of Pope Benedict XVI was expressed today by ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew, shortly before his departure for Constantinople. "A unique event of extraordinary importance," held in the evocative setting of the Sistine Chapel, beneath Michelangelo's fresco of the last judgment, precisely at a moment in which a political, economic, social, and moral crisis is gripping the world.

The patriarch's reflection, dedicated to the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church, was divided into two parts. The first part was on the spirit of Ravenna, the focal point of dialogue in the journey toward unity between Catholics and Orthodox, while the second was dedicated to some considerations on the interdependence between the word of God and aspects of social life. Both parts were inspired by the great fathers of the universal, united Church.

Bartholomew began by thanking the pope for providing the ecumenical patriarch for the first time with the opportunity to participate in this work, thereby considering himself part of his sister Church's life, by speaking of the importance of collegiality and the role of primacy in this context. Bartholomew began by saying that it is well known that in the Orthodox Church, the concept of collegiality is of fundamental importance from the ecclesiological point of view. Primacy in the context of the synod constitutes the cornerstone of the Church's governance and organization. According to the document of Ravenna, the interdependence between primacy and collegiality characterizes all levels of the Church's life, local, regional, and universal.

"The very fact of having the privilege of addressing your synod," he said, "means that the day will come when our two Churches will come together in the context of primacy in collegiality, the topic of discussion for our mixed commissioning for dialogue. The work of mission and evangelization, a characteristic of the apostolic Church at all times, would naturally be reinforced if it were carried out by a Christian Church fully united, and speaking with one voice.

The second part of Bartholomew's reflection was focused on listening to and studying the word of God through the scriptures, on the importance of iconography and of the sacramental life. St. John Chrysostom explains, Bartholomew said, that the divine word demonstrates profound respect and understanding for cultural and human diversity, in hearing and receiving it. Adapting the word of God to a particular cultural context is what has always characterized the missionary dimension of the Church, which is called to transform the world through the word of God. In consequence, Bartholomew continued, as disciples of the word of God, it has become more imperative than ever to combat racism and fundamentalism, to uproot poverty and develop tolerance in order to reestablish equality. Proceeding to illustrate the importance and significance of icons, the ecumenical patriarch said that these have an important anthropological and ecological dimension. This is because through these, the intention is to remind the missionary Church that all of creation has the ultimate aim of reaching perfection. In consequence, any negative position on iconography would also have negative repercussions on the evaluation and consideration of the relationship between man and nature.

Finally, speaking of the sacramental life, Bartholomew said that the Eucharist does not only represent an eschatological aspect, but also has a social dimension. The Eucharist cannot be isolated, detached from social reality and its future. Man must apply the word of God in his daily life, thus combating social injustice, poverty, war, abuse, and the improper use of natural resources, the cause of environmental destruction. He concluded that victory is already presence in the depths of the Church, each time we experience the grace of reconciliation and communion. "When we fight with the power of the cross, we begin to appreciate the fruits of justice and beauty."

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