LETTER OF HIS ALL HOLINESS
THE ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW
The Thronal Feast of the Church “which presides in love” fills our hearts with great joy year by year. Indeed, “a joyous feast has shone out today on the ends of the earth, the all-honored memorial of the wisest Apostles and their princes, Peter and Paul; and so Rome dances and rejoices,” and we, together with You, with one heart and one mind, “celebrate in songs and psalms this all-revered day” (Vespers of the Feast, aposticha).
For this reason, in continuation of the established tradition of exchanging delegations on the occasion of our respective Thronal Feasts, we convey our fraternal congratulatory wishes to Your Holiness through our Patriarchal Delegation, consisting of His Excellency Archbishop Job of Telmessos, Co-President of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between our two Sister Churches, His Grace Bishop Adrianos of Halicarnassus and the Reverend Deacon Barnabas Grigoriadis, Secretary of this year’s venerable representation.
The two Holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, continue to inspire our Churches to witness to the Gospel in the world in which we live, “for they shone more brightly than the sun in the firmament of the faith, and with the rays of the proclamation they brought the nations from ignorance to the knowledge of God.” For Peter “was nailed to a cross and so found the path to heaven,” while Paul “was beheaded by the sword and so departed to the Savior and is fittingly called blessed” (Vespers of the Feast). Thus, Peter who had wanted to deliver our Saviour from his arrest by taking his sword, received his teaching of non-violence, that “all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (Mt. 26:52) and put it into practice until dying on a cross, following the example of the Lord. Similarly, Paul, who once persecuted Christians, was converted on the road to Damascus by Christ who cried out to him: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Ac. 9:4). The two Apostles give us an example of conversion to the evangelical principle of non-violence decreed by our Saviour in the Gospel: “unto him that smites you on the one cheek offer also the other” (Lk. 6:29), and which was even taken up in the last century by a great personality of humanity, the Indian politician and political ethicist Mahatma Gandhi.
The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church convened in Crete in 2016 in its document entitled “The mission of the Orthodox Church in today’s world. The contribution of the Orthodox Church in realizing peace, justice, freedom, fraternity and love between peoples, and in the removal of racial and other discriminations” states: “The Lord, as King of righteousness (Heb. 7:2-3) denounces violence and injustice (Ps. 10:5), while condemning the inhumane treatment of one’s neighbor (Mt. 25:41-46; Jn. 2:15-16)” (§ E.1). Furthermore, it adds: “The Church of Christ condemns war in general, recognizing it as the result of the presence of evil and sin in the world […] Every war threatens to destroy creation and life.” (§ C.4)
How precious the testimony of the two Apostles by the incarnation of the Gospel principle of non-violence is to us today, when the whole world suffers at this time from the political, economic and ecological consequences of a war at the door of Europe between two Christian peoples, resulting from the illegal invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation. The Churches cannot remain silent in the face of this tragedy of humanity. Called to be peacemakers, under no circumstances can they use religious language to justify or support aggression, violence or war. On the contrary, they should support all initiatives and efforts to prevent conflicts through dialogue, which transforms all threats into opportunities and fosters peace, reconciliation and solidarity. They are no losers in sincere dialogue.
From the experience of our mutual fraternal relations, we know how much meeting and dialogue are of capital importance in overcoming the unfortunate conflicts of the past. It is this sense, we are especially delighted of the positive results of the work of the Coordinating Committee of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between our two Churches, which during its last meeting in Rethymnon last May, completed the revision of the document on “Primacy and Synodality in the Second Millennium and Today”, which shall be submitted to the discussion and approval of the next plenary of the Commission planned next year in Alexandria. We pray for the successful meeting of the next plenary of the Commission and hope that this document will be helpful in elucidating our misunderstandings and shortcomings of the past, paving thus the way to restoring communion between our Sister Churches.
Your Holiness, dearest Brother Francis, celebrating today with you the Thronal Feast of the Church of Rome, we reiterate our deepest desire for the restoration of the communion between our Churches and pray our Merciful Lord, the Prince of Peace, to grant You health, strength, peace and length of days to continue Your blessed ministry to the precious souls entrusted to Your Papal care and wisdom. Conveying to Your Holiness, the venerable Hierarchs and the Christ-loving faithful of Your Church, our warmest greetings, we embrace you fraternally and remain with much honour and love in our Lord Jesus-Christ, the Lamb slain for the life of the world.
At the Ecumenical Patriarchate,
the twenty-ninth of June, 2022
beloved brother in Christ,
Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome
and Ecumenical Patriarch
His Holiness Pope Francis
Bishop of Rome
In Vatican City.