Ομιλία της Α.Θ.Παναγιότητος του Οικουμενικού Πατριάρχου κ.κ. Βαρθολομαίου στο Ουκρανικό Συμβούλιο Εκκλησιών και Θρησκευτικών Οργανισμών:
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Dear Archbishop Sviatoslav, Chairman of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations,
Beloved religious leaders,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a privilege and an honor to be among you today because you symbolize hope for Ukraine not only individually, but also and especially collectively. We have come to this wonderful country to pay our respect to the spirit of freedom and independence that you have embodied for thirty years, despite the many tensions and challenges that you have experienced. As we stand among this diverse group of Christian representatives and of religious leaders, we cannot help but tell ourselves how important inter-Christian and interfaith dialogue is in today’s world.
The word “dialogue,” διάλογος, which is so commonly used to define an exceptionally diverse array of realities, resonates strongly as we come together tonight. Dialogue is the means by which we are called to resolve our divisions, to foster resilience, to fight against prejudices and intolerance, to promote peace and accord, solidarity and cooperation. It is a sign of hope that despite the horrors of the 20th century, the most violent era in the history of humanity, our understanding of dialogue has become an increasingly central instrument for building bridges and for reconciliation. This move toward rapprochement and reconciliation in our world is strongly evidenced through the Christian engagement in ecumenical dialogue. The Ecumenical Patriarchate in particular has proved to be a pioneer alongside other Churches and Christian communities in creating a genuine multilateral institution for the promotion of Christian unity. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the need for a global Christian organization was brought to fruition with the creation of the World Council of Churches in 1948, based on two crucial principles: a sincere dialogue regarding theological issues, and an acceptance of the need for joint social action.
The Orthodox Church’s involvement in the ecumenical movement has also been depended upon the willingness of other Churches to break down the walls of mistrust and separation. In this regard, a radical and positive turn was taken during the Second Vatican Council, when the Roman-Catholic Church decided on the fundamental necessity of a rapprochement between Christians, and especially with the Orthodox Church. One of the most important events to emerge from that decision was, without a doubt, the historic meeting in Jerusalem of Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in January 1964. In December 1965, in a very prophetic gesture, the same two primates commonly decided — as a visible sign of their desire to restore the bond of Eucharistic communion that had been ruptured for centuries — to simultaneously lift the anathemas of 1054, establishing the foundation for the bridge that we continue to design and build upon into the present age and beyond. The “dialogue of love” between the two sister Churches became a “dialogue of truth” with the establishment of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church as a whole in 1979. Since then, the many ties and ecumenical bonds that bring Christians closer together are plenty in the witness of our common desire for a renewed unity in communion.
Dialogue is equally important among faith traditions. In the Encyclical of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church convened in Crete in June 2016, one reads that, “Honest interfaith dialogue contributes to the development of mutual trust and to the promotion of peace and reconciliation. The Church strives to make ‘the peace from on high’ more tangibly felt on earth. True peace is not achieved by force of arms, but only through love that ‘does not seek its own’ (1 Cor 13.5). The oil of faith must be used to soothe and heal the wounds of others, not to rekindle new fires of hatred” (par. 17).
For the Orthodox Church, interfaith dialogue is rooted, from its very beginning, to the exposure of Orthodoxy itself to religiously pluralistic environments. The interfaith experience in our contemporary multicultural societies is powerfully linked to the church’s coexistence with religious actors and communities of diverse sensitivities and traditions. However, we equally experience some very strong reactions against interfaith dialogue. The rise of religious fundamentalism and extremism, hatred and ethnophyletism is a phenomenon that cuts across all religious traditions, producing self-isolation, insularity and rejection of otherness, attitudes which negate the authentic mission of religion. Extremism and hatred seek to privatize the truth by promoting an ethos of mutual exclusivity. On the contrary, we must try — in faithfulness to our respective faith traditions — to encourage mutual respect and co-action in a spirit of peace and solidarity. A recent document entitled For the Life of the World. Toward a Social Ethos of the Orthodox Church, approved for publication by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, reminds us that “interreligious encounters and dialogue are and will continue to be important means through which respect for religious differences and proclamation of the truth are realized. Interreligious dialogue is not merely about finding common ground or identifying areas of commonality; it is also an encounter with others on a personal and human level. It requires respect for the human person, created in God’s image, and for God’s love of all humanity and all creation” (par. 60). In like manner, we are called here with the peace of true fellowship to act on these assertions and come closer to live in harmony with one another.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
An essential precondition for effective dialogue is mutual trust. We cannot really know and understand the other, unless through an encounter where confidence prevails. We firmly believe in the power and persuasion of true dialogue, which knows no losers. We pray wholeheartedly that the merciful God will enable us to cultivate such an ethos of dialogue and reconciliation, seeing and acknowledging His existence everywhere, a presence that shines forth in all places, and especially when we come together in a spirit of love and respect.
Thank you for your kind attention. God bless us all!