Toast by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Dinner Hosted by His Holiness Pope Francis (Jerusalem, May 25, 2014)

Toast by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Dinner Hosted by His Holiness Pope Francis (Jerusalem, May 25, 2014)

Your Holiness,

The Gospel of St. Luke preserves the moving story of the encounter of the two disciples with the risen Lord on the way to Emmaus, a story with which we are all familiar. After listening to Him explaining the Scriptures "and the passages which referred to Himself" (Luke 24.27), as they approached the town of Emmaus, the disciples asked the Lord: "Stay with us, for the evening draws on, and the day is almost over" (v.29). Christ stayed and dined with them.

Now, too, the evening draws on, and the day is almost over, and Your Holiness has invited us to dine with You tonight in a place not so far from Emmaus. We are grateful for the invitation and we thank Your Holiness wholeheartedly for the occasion.

This meal comes at the end of a long journey, which began for Your Holiness at the West and for our Modesty in the East. We have arrived in the place where East and West converge, to the roots of our very existence as Christians, the place where our Lord was born, taught, suffered the Cross, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to constitute His Church. We have come to meet one another and, as our predecessor Patriarch Athenagoras remarked to Your Holiness' predecessor Pope Paul VI, both of them of blessed memory, during their first encounter in this Holy City fifty years ago, "having come to meet each other we have encountered the Lord Himself." Allow us, Your Holiness, to suggest that the real host of this meal is the Lord Himself. Our eyes are closed, as were those of the two disciples, and we cannot discern Him. Yet it is He that gives meaning to this meal; it is He that invites us to share it.

The eyes of the two disciples, writes the Evangelist, were opened and they recognized the Lord only when He blessed the bread and broke it, distributing it to them. This was nothing else but the mystery of the Holy Eucharist. It is by sharing the Holy Eucharist that we can realize our Lord's presence among us and, indeed, within us. (John 6.56) All of our prayers, our wishes and our efforts should be directed to this end: to the restoration of our eucharistic communion. May the Lord grant us to see Him and share Him at the eucharistic table! 

Until that blessed day arrives, a meal such as this, to which Your Holiness has invited us tonight, will serve as a reminder of our duty to listen to the Lord as He explains to us the Scriptures and His word in order to reach a common understanding of the truth of His Gospel, as transmitted to us by the Holy Fathers and the sacred ecumenical councils of the Church. The ongoing theological dialogue accompanied by the bond of love, in which our Churches are currently engaged, constitute our own way to Emmaus. The way may be long but, as in the case of the disciples' road to Emmaus, the Lord accompanies us, albeit invisibly, endowing us with courage and strength.

Even as we share this meal, we call to mind all those in our world who hunger and thirst, materially or spiritually, those forced to leave their homes, the victims of war as well as all kinds of exploitation and injustice – the "least of these" brothers and sisters of our Lord. (Matt. 25.40) We know that they occupy a prominent place in the heart of Your Holiness, and so also do they in the hearts of us all. May the Lord bring to the world His Kingdom of justice, peace and love.

 With these humble thoughts and with profound thanks for Your kindness in our heart, we raise this cup wishing Your Holiness God' s blessing in Your high ministry for the sake of the unity and mission of His Church.

                                             Εἰς πολλά ἔτη!