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Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew: “We do not belong to ourselves, but to Christ and His Church”

In a festive and joyful atmosphere, the Great Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was celebrated at the Phanar, during which, this year, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew celebrated the 50 years since his ordination as Bishop (1973).

The Ecumenical Patriarch presided over the Divine Liturgy of Christmas Day along with the Hierarchs, His Eminence Elder Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon, His Eminence Metropolitan Meliton of Philadelphia, His Eminence Metropolitan Eirinaios of Myriophytos and Peristasis, His Eminence Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Myra, His Eminence Metropolitan Theoliptos of Iconium, His Eminence Metropolitan Georgios of Guinea of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, His Eminence Metropolitan Andreas of Arkalochori, Kastelli and Viannos, His Eminence Metropolitan Nektarios of Anthidon, Commissioner of the Holy Sepulchre in Constantinople, His Eminence Metropolitan Job of Pisidia, His Eminence Metropolitan Andreas of Forty Churches and His Eminence Metropolitan Ioakeim of Bursa.

During the Divine Liturgy, the ordination of His Eminence Metropolitan Theodore of Seleucia took place, and the new Chief Secretary Deacon Bosporios was ordained a Presbyter, to whom the Patriarch awarded the offikion of the Archimandrite of the Holy Great Church of Christ.

Before the ordination of the Metropolitan-elect of Seleucia, the Ecumenical Patriarch referred to his brilliant education and his almost twenty-year productive ministry in the Patriarchal Court.

“We congratulate you and praise you for all this. We urge you to be ready to experience positive surprises in your province, which happens in other provinces of the Throne in Asia Minor and Eastern Thrace.

We reiterate at this sacred moment that we consider good theological training to be of central importance for the work of the minister of the Church. We emphasise that besides this, good education and interest in culture in general are also necessary. Without education and cultural openness, it is not possible to give a Christian testimony in time.

The blessed and profound theologian Metropolitan John of Pergamon stressed that the Orthodox Church must “articulate a salvific word for modern man, taking into account the impasses that man faces. These deadlocks are the challenge and the framework that the modern world offers to Orthodoxy, to make alive the tradition that our generation received from its fathers.” (Orthodoxy and the Modern World, Kozani 1991, pp. 18-19). To give substantiated answers, we must know our tradition and theology, but also the impasses and quests of humankind of our time.”

Following his address, the Ecumenical Patriarch pointed out: “We are not just a biological entity, our life is not exhausted in the struggle for survival, for the coverage of material needs and the satisfaction of the senses.

There is also the moral and spiritual dimension and setting of goals, which is a source of meaning and inspiration and sharpens our senses for the more practical. For us, this dimension is identified with faith in Christ, which opens its way to humankind by the grace of deification. As has been said, Christianity is, “the most revolutionary spiritual force in history.

It innovates everything, where it acts, and is applied according to its essence. The basic Christian concept in all dimensions is “rebirth”. ”Christ is the Truth, which frees man and transforms all life and the world. Only Christianity “can answer all questions and fully satisfy the searching of the mind and the thirst of the heart”, notes Fr. Alexandros Schmemann (Orthodox calendar, Athens 1997, p. 58).

This Truth is what the Church lives and preaches. It is kept here in the Centre of Orthodoxy. This is expressed in the multidimensional testimony of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the ends of the world. This is the content, the source, and the horizon of our ministry. We do not belong to ourselves but to Christ and His Church. What we do is the work of the Lord, which is done through us in the Church.
This truth is recalled and highlighted by every election of a bishop, every promotion in the Patriarchal Court, the change of guard in the staff positions of the Throne, and the other changes of persons.

All this means and signals that there is continuity and cohesion in the life of the Church. The baton is handed down from generation to generation, new workers of the vineyard of the Lord take action, and new persons shoulder the responsibilities, perform the duty, and give good testimony.

The legacy is bequeathed, the burden is placed on new sturdy shoulders and the history of the Throne and the proclamation of the Gospel continue through the centuries, about which the Lord’s words sound and apply: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35).

Subsequently, the Patriarch referred to Father Bosporios, saying: “He takes on a huge responsibility. We exhort him to work with patience, awe, and much prayer.

During his six-year ministry, he proved his diligence and devout zeal. An excellent connoisseur of the ancient Greek language and Byzantine history, with organisational experience, he promises a creative service in the very demanding work he undertakes, with direct reference to the presence of the Mother Church throughout the world and to the protection of her rights.

We also wish to praise a gift that adorns both of today’s ordained. Both are graduates of Byzantine Music and excellent chanters, with an important contribution to the ministry of the sacred analogion. Psalmody, as a ministry and as an art, familiarises us with the hymnological texts, which are not just pious songs, but lively given Dogmatics. It is a source of devotion, spirituality, piety, and theological knowledge, and creates in its initiates a special conscience of sacred mission and dedication to the Church.

In this spirit, brothers and children, we invite you to pray to the Lord of glory to bless those ordained and to keep them in the work of the ministry of His Church. And the grace of the incarnate Word of God may be with you all, and the peace of God, which the angels proclaimed during the Nativity of the Saviour, may it become, as inner peace and as peace of interhuman relations, peoples, religions and cultures, a a permanent condition on earth, to the glory of the heavenly name of God in the Trinity and true progress of all things connected to humanity.”

Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne, Bishop of the Roman Catholics in Constantinople, Massimiliano Palinuro, Ambassador, His Excellency, Mr. Konstantinos Koutras, Consul General of Greece in Constantinople, the Consul General of Ukraine, Mr. Roman Nedilskyi, with his wife and associates, clergymen, monks, Archons of the Great Church of Christ, headed by the Secretary General of the Association “Panagia Pammakaristos”, Mr. Konstantinos Delikostantis, Archon Teacher of the Nation, Mr. Emmanuel Karageorgoudis, Dean of the Theological School of Athens, relatives of the newly ordained, and many believers from Constantinople and abroad, were all present for the feast day celebrations.

The Deputy Secretary of the Holy Synod, Deacon Ecumenios read the Patriarchal Proclamation for the feast of Christmas. At the end of the Divine Liturgy, the newly ordained Metropolitan Theodore of Seleucia, after receiving the Hierarchical Mitre and the pastoral staff from the hands of the Ecumenical Patriarch, ascended the Throne and performed the dismissal of the Divine Liturgy.

Subsequently, at the reception held in the Throne Room, Patriarch Sahak Maşalyan of Armenia in Turkey, accompanied by his entourage, expressed his devotion and respect to the Ecumenical Patriarch and thanked the Synodal Hierarchs for his election.

The Chief Secretary Archimandrite Bosporios then expressed his gratitude to the Ecumenical Patriarch.

A large delegation of the main opposition Party of Turkey, CHP, headed by the President of the Local Organisation of Constantinople, Mr. Özgür Çelik, as well as the Mayor of the Princes’ Islands, Mr. Erden Gül, with his associates, also attended the reception and wished the Ecumenical Patriarch well for the celebration of Christmas.

Photos: Nikos Papachristou / Ecumenical Patriarchate