History in Istanbul

Partiarch Bartolomew with the Patriarch of EgyptPartiarch Bartolomew with the Patriarch of Egypt

A historical event took place in Istanbul, at the Phanar, the seat of the Patriarchate in October 2008 - the encounter of the Patriarchs and of the other heads of Orthodox churches, who visited Turkey in the spirit of St. Paul. Although much has happened since this meeting especially the events surrounding the death of Patriarch Alexis of Moscow and the nomination of Patriarch Kirill on the 1st February 2009 we feel this encounter will have far reaching repercussions for the future and so we want to share with you about it.

Patriarch Bartholomew I invited those present to meet at the Phanar to pursue together, in the footsteps of the Great Apostle, the work started in view of a pan-orthodox Council.

In a message containing all the main points of Paul's teaching, the Patriarch addressed a vigorous and inspired message to the members of this Synaxe (reunion of these Patriarchs and church leaders). He called all the Orthodox churches nourished by the same Body, the same Blood of Christ and by the same tradition of the Fathers of the Church, to focus their energies towards building up unity between them. The basis for life must be the Risen Christ who saves the world and it is a cosmic mission including all mankind and all the creatures of the universe.

The Church leaders committed themselves unanimously on different important issues:

  • to have a common will to go beyond the former conflicts between Orthodox communities that arose in the course of a somewhat troubled history;

  • to approach with mutual agreement the topic of a true dialogue with the other Christian churches;

  • to promote together respect for the created universe and to make the faithful aware of this commitment to save our planet and the cosmos from destruction - building awareness on the effects of our greed on nature and the misery of much of mankind.

The Church leaders were called to base their teaching on the Christological preaching of Paul and the Fathers of the Church that these should be the milestones toward a future Pan-orthodox Council.

On Sunday, October 12th, the feast of the Fathers of the Nicea Council, the concelebrated liturgy, presided over by the ecumenical Patriarch, took place at the church of the Phanar. A very moving moment which, without words, expressed the gratitude of all the Orthodox Churches for the primacy of communion of the Patriarch of Istanbul, a primacy which did not always create unanimity.

Patriarch Bartholemew with a group of Orthodox sistersPatriarch Bartholemew with a group of Orthodox sisters

Little sister Magdeleine would have been happy to live this historical event and to see Patriarch Alexis of Moscow present. A Russian cloistered nun was also in the assembly. We too were lucky enough to find a place.

The group of the Church leaders also went on a pilgrimage to Ephesus, Antalya, Perge, Rhodes and Crete.

The Turkish press proudly announced that the Patriarch had needed a Turkish company plane for the pilgrimage. The newspapers were very positive about the whole event and the commentators related accurately the themes examined at the Synaxe: unity, love, respect. The Turkish television and that of Greece recorded the celebration of October 12th.

How not to see in these encounters the work of the Spirit and a little bit of Heaven on earth? Like St. Paul, with the ardent desire that Christ should not be divided, we share with you these few moments which are certainly important for the whole Church.

Pope Benedict XVI invited Patriarch Bartholomew to the Synod in Rome which took place a few days later and welcomed him warmly. It is the first time in history that a Patriarch of Istanbul has intervened at a Synod.