His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sent a message in every direction on the occasion of the feast of Saint Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra, on Wednesday, 6 December 2023.
The Ecumenical Patriarch presided over the Divine Liturgy at the basilica of St. Nicholas, where the tomb of the Saint was located, in Myra (Demre), Lycia. The Ecumenical Patriarch presided over the service along with His Eminence Elder Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon, His Eminence Elder Metropolitan Apostolos of Derkoi, His Eminence Metropolitan Andreas of Arkalochori, Kastelli and Viannos and His Eminence Metropolitan Job of Pisidia, and His Grace Bishop Ambrosios of Evdokia. The local Shepherd, His Eminence Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Myra, presided over the Matins Service.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said that “what we consider as the East, which is the magnificent work of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, Andrew the First-Called, and Saint John the Theologian, is actually the historical way and place of education in the time of the Church.
The East is not just the birthplace of great saints but also the cradle of the Church in its present form. Our theology and ecclesiology originated in these sacred lands, within the canonical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It was here that the Ecumenical Synods convened, shaping the ecclesiastical conscience rooted in the ministry of the Lord, transcending national or other distinctions. The wisdom of the Holy Fathers established the pentarchy and its hierarchical order, defining boundaries, principles, and values with profound insight, considering the history and sanctity of each region.
Hence, from Asia Minor, we proclaim in every direction that the genuine and only Mother Church is the Great Church of Constantinople. It exclusively bears the legacy of Jesus’s sacrifice on the Cross for all humanity, giving birth to numerous Churches from Bulgaria to Ukraine. This declaration isn’t a modern invention in ecclesiology but an experiential truth and legacy inherited from the Fathers of the Ecumenical and Local Synods.
It is not just a theoretical assertion but a continuous, blessed act of the Church that bestows upon Constantinople the privilege of the Crucifixion’s sacrifice, the path of sacrifice, and the position as the Head of all Churches. It consistently bears the crown of thorns symbolising the Passion of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
As the humble successors, by the grace of God, to these traditions, we vow to safeguard this sacred trust. We refuse to relinquish the sacred duty and responsibility entrusted to us.
We do not relinquish the mantle of the Mother of the Great Church, a role passed down to us in blood, and we are committed to passing it on unscathed and unaltered. For 32 years, and into the future, we embrace this task joyously, through the intercessions of the Most Holy Theotokos.
We do not step down from the Cross to which the Church of Constantinople has devoted itself. We remain dedicated to our calling, honouring our history and the wisdom of the Fathers.
We’ve learned how to lead all peoples, races, and languages to the Resurrection through the Cross. We are willing to endure crucifixion and unite with Christ until the end of time, for the world’s sake. Thus, we stand firm, all of us, in reverent awe before the judgment seat of God!”
Then, speaking in Turkish, the Ecumenical Patriarch referred to the ongoing wars in the Middle East and Ukraine, noting that they deeply affect all humanity.
“Today, we came here, to the Church of Saint Nicholas, to pray for peace once again. We prayed for the wars to end as soon as possible, but also for the suffering in both regions of Ukraine and the Middle East. Mothers should no longer cry, children should not be afraid, young people should not die early. We hope that lasting peace will prevail as soon as possible to our neighbouring countries, with which we share the same sea, the Mediterranean.”
The Ecumenical Patriarch expressed, among other things, his thanks to the State and local competent authorities for the granting of permission and for all the facilities for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in the ancient Basilica.
On the eve of the Feast Day, His All-Holiness officiated at the Great Vespers Service during which His Eminence Elder Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon, His Eminence Elder Metropolitan Apostolos of Derkoi, His Eminence Metropolitan Andreas of Arkalochori and His Eminence Metropolitan Job of Pisidia, along with His Grace Bishop Ambrosios of Evdokia were present also for the Vespers, along with the Holy Clergy of his ecclesiastical eparchy.
At the end of Vespers, the Patriarch was addressed with warm words by the local Shepherd, Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Myra, while His All-Holiness, in his response, expressed his deep emotion for the blessing of visiting for the fourth time the holy place of Myra. His All-Holiness especially thanked the Metropolitan of Myra for his unceasing concern for the realisation of this annual pilgrimage, during the feast of Saint Nicholas.