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Patriarchal Exhortation by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the Delegations of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (Jerusalem, May 24, 2014)

Patriarchal Exhortation by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the Delegations of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (Jerusalem, May 24, 2014)

Most Reverend Brother Archbishops and Metropolitans,
Distinguished Clergy and precious Archons,
Esteemed guests and friends of the Ecumenical Patriarchate,

Χριστός  Ἀνέστη!

We offer glory and thanks to the Lord our God, who shed His blood for the life of the world and arose on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

Indeed, "how beautiful and sweet it is for brothers and sisters to be gathered together in unity. . . . It is like the dew that flows down upon the hills of Zion" (Psalm 133.1-3).

As you are all aware, this journey is historical. For it commemorates the visionary meeting of our venerable predecessor Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras and the late Pope Paul VI, who jointly shattered a silence of centuries between the two sister Churches of Constantinople and Rome. It is crucial for us to appreciate this pioneering and daring encounter in the context of one thousand years of mutual mistrust and theological estrangement between our two great traditions.

The meeting in Jerusalem on January 6, 1964, was an extraordinary starting-point for a long journey of reconciliation and dialogue, which the succeeding generations were called to continue. Looking back at the last fifty years, we can be grateful to God for what has been achieved both in the "dialogue of love" and in the "dialogue of truth." The spirit of fraternal love and mutual respect has replaced the old polemic and suspicion.

Thus, at the theological level, the Joint International Commission of the Theological Dialogue of the two Churches has produced several important common documents. But we recognize that there is still a great deal to be done both between our two Churches as well as within our own Churches. There is no doubt that the path is long and difficult. But as disciples of our Lord, who prayed to His Father and urged His disciples "that they may be one" (ut unum sint: John 17.21), we have no other alternative but to pursue this path of reconciliation and unity. Any other way would be a dishonorable betrayal of the Lord's will and an unacceptable return to our estranged past.

However, our journey is much more than a remembrance and recognition. It is a celebration of and commitment to the unity that we all seek, especially in a world that is divided by poverty and torn by suffering. Today, even more than fifty years ago, there is an urgent need for reconciliation. We must, of course, humbly realize and confess that our meeting with our Brother Pope Francis is only a first step of outreach toward the world, an initial action and affirmation of our desire to increase our efforts toward Christian reconciliation and global peace. Nonetheless, it will demonstrate our common willingness and acknowledged responsibility to advance along the path paved by our predecessors.

Thus, as two ecclesiastical and spiritual leaders, we shall meet in order to address an appeal and invitation to all people, irrespective of faith and virtue, for a dialogue that ultimately aims at the knowledge of Christ's truth and the taste of the immense joy, which attends their acquaintance with Christ. However, this can ultimately only be achieved through the restoration of an inward separation from one another and through the unity of all people in Christ, which is truly the fullness of love and joy.

Since 1964, we may not have achieved full communion, which must always be the ultimate goal of Christ's faithful disciples. Nevertheless, we have learned to forgive one another for the mistakes and mistrust of the past; and we have taken significant steps toward rapprochement and reconciliation. It will also be an important opportunity for the world to see a united approach – beyond confessional identities and differences – to the suffering of Christians in so many places, and especially in the areas where Christianity first appeared and developed. Moreover, it will provide occasion to address the injustices inflicted on the vulnerable members of contemporary societies as well as the alarming consequences of the ecological crisis.

Athenagoras and Paul VI were certainly great visionaries of unity. Nevertheless, another important step toward reconciliation and unity will, with the grace of God, take place tomorrow through our encounter with our Brother Pope Francis. It will also be an important opportunity for the world to see a united approach – beyond confessional identities and differences – to the suffering of Christians in so many places, and especially in the areas where Christianity first appeared and developed. Moreover, it will provide occasion to address the injustices inflicted on the vulnerable members of contemporary societies as well as the alarming consequences of the ecological crisis. May it be in accordance with God's will.

In closing, we would like to thank each and every one of you for the support you are demonstrating – with your prayer and your presence – for this extraordinary and exceptional moment in the history of our Christian Church. Without you, this would not be possible. For, "we are all members of one another," even as "we are members of the one body" of Jesus Christ. (Rom. 12.5)

In the word, then, of our saintly predecessor, St. John Chrysostom: "Glory be to God for all things."