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GREETING By His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew To the Delegation of the Church of Rome At the Thronal Feast of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
November 30, 2007
Your Eminence Cardinal Walter Kasper, and beloved brothers in Christ comprising the Delegation of the Church of Rome,
It is with particular joy that we welcome you today at the historical Center of Orthodoxy, on the occasion of our celebration of the joyous feast of the Ecumenical Throne. Your presence here both strengthens and seals the bonds of love and trust between our Churches, bonds which have been cultivated in recent decades and which have been especially established by the visit here last year of His Holiness, our most beloved Brother in Christ Pope Benedict XVI of Rome and his fervent participation in the Thronal Feast of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
We are particularly moved today because, this year, we enjoy the distinct blessing and spiritual pleasure of honoring the founder and patron of the Church of Constantinople, the glorious and first-called among the Apostles, Andrew, whose sacred relics were generously and graciously permitted by the love of His Holiness to be donated to us during our recent visit to Naples, being returned from Amalfi to the Throne of the Patriarchate in order to remain here for the sanctification of our faithful and as a sign of communion with the Apostle, whom we commemorate today, as well as of fraternal unity of Christians throughout the world.
It is with fond memories that we recall our recent meeting with His Holiness in Naples, together with our constructive and brotherly conversation there. This encounter contributed further to the cultivation of an atmosphere of friendship and cooperation of our two Churches, strengthening yet further the relations among us. We always believe that the peaceful coexistence of Christians, in a spirit of unity and concord, must constitute the fundamental concern of us all.
This is precisely what we confirmed and cosigned jointly with His Holiness in the joint Declaration during his visit here last year, urging “that we share the same emotions and the same intentions of brotherhood, cooperation and communion in love and truth.” (Common Declaration by Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Bartholomew)
In an age when, as we once again jointly emphasized last year, we observe “the rise of secularism and relativism, or even nihilism, especially in the western world” (Common Declaration), we must derive inspiration from the example of the Apostle Andrew, who “endured many trials in every land and spoke of numerous difficulties” (See the Life of St. Andrew, according to the Synaxaristes of Constantinople), “and yet remained upstanding through the strength of Christ and for the sake of the faithful.”
Therefore, the feast of this Apostle provides the appropriate occasion for us to pray together more intently for the restoration of unity within the Christian world. The fracture of this unity has been the cause of so much trouble in humanity, while its consequences have proved tragic. The philosophy of the Enlightenment in the West and the French Revolution sparked a truly cultural revolution aimed at replacing the previous Christian tradition of the Western world with a new, non-Christian, concept of man and society. This revolution gave rise in many ways to the practical materialism of contemporary societies but also to diverse forms of militant atheism and totalitarianism which, over the last two centuries, have unfortunately claimed the lives of millions of innocent victims. Those who remained faithful to the Christian values were led to this new cultural environment by means of various processes to the loss also of the concept of mystery in God and of His living worship, which is genuinely preserved in the East, as well as to the reduction of religious life to a humanistic ethic by means of the relativization of doctrinal formulations.
Today, then, it is our obligation more than ever to reclaim the Christian roots of Europe and the spiritual, sacramental and doctrinal unity that it enjoyed prior to the Schism of our two Churches. The re-evangelization of our peoples is “today, more so than ever before, timely and necessary, even within traditional Christian lands,” as we admitted and confessed in common here exactly one year ago.
Thus, we believe that Western and Eastern Europe must cease regarding themselves as foreign to one another. Contact among Christians of the Latin tradition and the Orthodox faith may be rendered most productive for both sides. The feast of the Apostle Andrew, whom we commemorate and celebrate today, constitutes a vocation for all Christians of the world to return to the fullness, youthfulness and purity of the Christian tradition of the early Church. The example bequeathed to us by the Apostle Andrew, who remained faithful to His teacher throughout even the most grueling circumstances, preferring the Cross of Christ in place of any other compromise, invites us to an uncompromising resistance before the destructive consequences of the consumer culture today, before the increasing relativization of our doctrine and faith, before “the diverse forms of exploitation of the poor, migrants, women and children,” as we declared again last year, as well as to “joint action to preserve a respect for human rights in every human being created in the image and likeness of God.” The First-Called among the Apostles, Andrew, could have modified the demands of his preaching in order to yield and avoid a horrible death, threatened at the time by the Governor of Patras. Yet he preferred the eternal glory of the Lord instead of any fleeting compromise, “considering the abuse that he suffered for Christ to be greater wealth.” (Heb. 11.26) It is he who today calls all Christians, and especially ecclesiastical leaders and shepherds, “to choose rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” (Heb. 11.26)
Today’s celebration is an invitation extended to both our Churches to the unity of the Cross. Just as our Lord Jesus Christ stretched out His arms upon the Cross, uniting all that was formerly divided, so also His Apostle, in imitation of His Master, stretched out his arms, gathering us all today and calling us to stretch out our arms upon the cross spiritually in order to achieve the unity that we desire.
Elder Rome has the foremost St. Peter as its Apostle and Patron. New Rome, Constantinople, has the brother of St. Peter, the first-called of the Apostles, Andrew. Both invite us to the fraternal unity that they shared with each other and that can only be acquired when the Cross becomes our point of reference and experience of approach.
Let us, therefore, beseech these two brothers and greatest of Apostles that they may grant peace to the world and lead everyone to unity, in accordance with the particularly timely troparion today of St. Symeon Metaphrastes, Archbishop of Thessalonika:
You, Andrew, were first-called of the Apostles;