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Your Eminence Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain,
Most venerable Hierarchs and reverend clergy,
Beloved young women and men of this blessed Archdiocese,
This evening is truly a special joy for us; this event is something we were very much looking forward to from the moment we looked at the wonderful program prepared by Archbishop Nikitas, who has spoken to us about these regular and refreshing gatherings of young adults. We wish to congratulate all of you, and in particular the initiative of Fr. Nephon Tsimalis and the close collaboration of Mr. Jason Charalambos, for the success of these unique, quarterly opportunities.
Our words to you tonight are not a mere formality. They come from the heart. They are the sincere and paternal hopes of your Patriarch for the role and responsibility that you and your generation have in our world and in our time. All over the world, we witness turmoil and change; you see it in your own country, but it is the same in many parts of the planet. You see how the unprovoked and diabolical war instigated by the Russian Federation on the sovereign territory of Ukraine has global ramifications on the economy, the energy, and the food of so many countries, both developed and developing. Everything that occurs in one part of the planet has direct implications for the rest of the planet, and especially the poor. And if we are to resist facing despondency and despair, then we are called to search deep inside the Word of God and the wealth of our tradition in order – as the First Letter of Peter says – to “be ready always to give an answer to every person who asks us to give account for the hope that lies within us.” (1 Peter 3.15) Our heartfelt prayer is that you will be prepared to do this.
This is precisely what the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church succeeded in doing six years ago, when the Primates of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches – along with their Hierarchies and advisors – assembled in order to speak with one voice and remind people that the Church does not live for herself and that the Church cannot remain indifferent to the world; we also declared that our horizons should be open to the contemporary diverse and multifarious world.
But we have done much more than just provide statements. In fact, we have done everything in our power to provide you with the tools and to equip you with the materials to discern the signs and respond to the challenges of our times. This is why, two years ago, we established a special commission to prepare an important and much-needed document about our engagement with each other as human beings and with the issues confronting our societies. The text is entitled “For the Life of the World: Toward a Social Ethos of the Orthodox Church” and it has already gained widespread reputation in Orthodox and non-Orthodox Churches on what the Holy Spirit is saying to our Church today, as the Book of Revelation says (Revelation 2.7). We encourage you to study the document, which is not a finished text; it does not offer simple or simplistic answers to difficult and complex questions. It is a beginning and an invitation to conversation.
Is this not the goal of your own “enlightened evenings”? Is it not to share and enjoy dialogue and conversation with one another in an atmosphere of love and trust? Conversation is the way that our own hearts are illumined and converted. Conversation is the way that we gain understanding and compassion for others. And conversation is the way that we express our faith and commitment to God. After all, you should never forget that the Son of God is nothing less than the Word of God, who calls us into a personal relationship and friendship with Himself, just as we are doing this evening when we are breaking bread together and enjoying fellowship with one another.
May God continue to bless your meetings. And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all throughout your lives.