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“The Church exists not to condemn, but to liberate, not to punish, but to save”

On 1 February 2024, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew officiated at the Divine Liturgy for the feast day of Saint Tryphon, patron Saint of gardeners, vintners and farmers in general, at the Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos, Belgrad Kapı (gate) in Constantinople. At the end of the Divine Liturgy, the Ecumenical Patriarch blessed the koliva which was offered in honour of the memory of the revered Saint, and Archimandrite Kaisarios Chronis, the Archivist of the Patriarchate, recited the exorcism prayer of Saint Tryphon, a customary prayer performed on the day of the feast in the fields and vineyards, in order to rid them of harmful snakes and insects.

Immediately after this, in the Community Hall, His All-Holiness addressed the faithful, emphasising that his visit to the Community of the Hypsomatheia District aimed to underscore the Mother Church’s unwavering commitment to every believer and community and made it clear that no parishioner or community, even if they live in a remote location and have no parishioners, is underestimated, despised, or forgotten by the Mother Church.

“After all, did not the Lord come on earth for the downtrodden and the insignificant of all? How, then, would His Church, which is the eternal extension of his presence throughout the ages, appear inferior to its Lord? How can He ignore those whom He Himself called His brothers or those small and insignificant things often dismissed by the many, which, however, make up the whole of the human existence?

The Church exists not to condemn, but to liberate, not to punish, but to save. The Church awaits every pained and tormented soul to offer them solace and a consolation. The Church embraces everyone without discrimination, because it sees in each person the unique, extraordinary and unrepeatable image of God. This is the message of today’s feast of Saint Tryphon, the patron saint of seemingly unknown and insignificant farmers, gardeners and vintners. No one is forgotten! No one is excluded from the plan of salvation of our Saviour who condescended to our human race!”

The Ecumenical Patriarch, in his speech, once again condemned the recent murderous attack that occurred in the Roman Catholic Church of Panagia Bathyrryakos (Büyükdere).

“We repeat the condemnation and regimentation of the Holy Great Church of Christ for the heinous murder of one of our fellow citizens, especially in a place of worship, during the Divine Liturgy. We express, from this point of view, the sincere condolences of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and of my humble person, to the victim’s family, and we commend the local authorities for their prompt efforts in elucidating this tragic circumstance. This also has become a Cross which is being borne by our Roman Catholic Brothers and Sisters who reside there, being guided by Bishop Massimiliano Palinuro, just weeks following another heinous incident: the assassination attempt against the Imam of the Fatih Mosque after the conclusion of the evening prayer.

These tragedies that struck both the Christian and Muslim Community of Constantinople within a short period of time, serve as sad reminders of the obligation and collective duty, that we must unequivocally condemn every form and manifestation of religious fundamentalism, but also to do everything possible to prevent it from happening once again.

To this end, we must realise that we have nothing which separates us from our brothers and sisters of other denominations or religions. On the contrary, there is much that unites us, with the main finding that the life of every person, regardless of religious beliefs, is an alternating sequence of crucifying and resurrecting moments and days. This very sequence of events will bring us closer together, so that we can receive from each other encouragement, optimism, strength and hope, in order to face these unpleasant and challenging situations with courage, as long as the other days, the days of resurrection, will follow”.

In concluding his address, His All-Holiness urged the members of the Ecclesiastical Committee to work harmoniously with the Supervisor of the Hypsomatheia District, His Eminence Metropolitan Maximos of Selyvria, “who exemplarily exercises his honourable ministry with the fear of God, keeping the candle of faith burning both in the hearts and souls of the parishioners, as well as on the altar of this Church of their Fathers, but also of every other Holy Church of the historical and of this blessed District”.

Previously, His All-Holiness was addressed with warm words by His Eminence Metropolitan Maximos of Selyvria, underlining the importance of the Patriarchal presence in the Communities of the Hypsomatheia District, but also in every Community of the Holy Archdiocese of Constantinople, as it encourages and strengthens clergy and people in the carrying out of their ministries.

Photographs: Nikos Papachristou