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Τετάρτη, 28 Οκτωβρίου 2009

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew: DISCERNING GOD’S PRESENCE IN THE WORLD

Τα Κείμενα από την Ανακήρυξη του Οικουμενικού Πατριάρχου κ. Βαρθολομαίου σε Επίτιμο διδάκτορα του Fordham University / Conferral of Honorary Doctorate on the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (27 Οκτωβρίου 2009)

Φωτορεπορτάζ: Νικόλαος Μαγγίνας


Α

The Visit of His All Holiness Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
The University Church
Joseph M. McShane, S.J.


"This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad."

Your All Holiness, in the name of Christ our Savior, I welcome you to the University Church, this historic house of prayer that has stood at the center of the University's campus and mission since it was built by our founder, Archbishop John Hughes, in 1844. Your All Holiness, your Eminences, your Graces and your Excellencies, Mr. Tognino, members of the Board of Trustees, the faculty, the administration and student body of the University, and faithful and devoted members of the Orthodox Christian communities of America, on behalf of the entire Fordham family, it is a great honor--indeed, a great grace to welcome you to the University Church this afternoon. It is a particular grace to welcome you, Your All Holiness, both to Rose Hill and to the Fordham family. Your presence, and the presence of so many of our beloved brothers in the Orthodox episcopate (both here in America and throughout the world) is a source of great joy to the whole Fordham community. (I am especially happy to welcome my dear friend, Archbishop Demetrios, back to Fordham this afternoon.) At the same time, I am deeply grateful for the presence of Their Eminences Cardinals Egan (whom His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has appointed as his delegate to our ceremony this afternoon), Cardinal Keeler (the Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore) and Cardinal McCarrick (the Archbishop Emeritus of Washington), as well as their Excellencies Archbishops Dolan (the Archbishop of New York) and Migliore (the Papal Nuncio and Permanent Observer to the United Nations) at our gathering this evening. Their presence indicates the great affection and deep reverence that the Roman Catholic Church (both in the United States and throughout the world) has for Your All Holiness.

For my part, I must tell you, Your All Holiness, that your graced presence on our campus this evening reminds me of the long and affectionate ties that have bound the University and the Orthodox churches together for so long. For years Fordham was blessed by the presence of Father John Meyendorff on our faculty, and for generations, the sons and daughters of Orthodox families have come to Fordham to pursue their college degrees. In the process, they have enriched the life of the University beyond measure--with the seriousness with which they have approached their studies, with the devotion that they have always had for the University and its mission, and with their prayer. As you know, thanks in large part to the support that we have received both from you and from Archbishop Demetrios, in the last few years, the University's relationship to and service of the Orthodox community in America has grown even stronger. Indeed, as a result of Archbishop's assistance, Fordham has been able to establish a program in Orthodox Studies that is unique in the United States and that can serve as a model for other colleges throughout the country, a program that provides Orthodox students with both the pastoral care of an Orthodox chaplain and the opportunity to complete a minor in Orthodox theology. On this night so filled with hope and so rich in meaning, I would like to tell you how grateful we at Fordham are for the grace-filled love that you have shown our efforts, and for the generosity of spirit that the Orthodox Church has always shown Fordham.

Of course, Fordham does not merely honor you this evening for the support that you have given to our efforts to nurture the faith on our campus. Far from it. We honor you for the extraordinary service that you have given to the Orthodox Churches, the whole Christian family and the world. And your service has been extraordinary indeed. Your All-Holiness, throughout your ministry as the Archbishop of Constantinople/New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, as the successor to the Apostle Andrew, you have discharged the duties of your office with vision and holiness. In the model of your saintly predecessor, Saint John Chrysotom, you have been a theologian of rare wisdom and wide erudition. (Axios!) In the model of Patriarch Athenagoras I, you have devoted yourself to the work of ecumenical dialogue with loving compassion. (Axios!) And, in the model of the Lord whom you have sought to serve with every fibre of your being, you have embraced the world. Indeed, you have made the whole world your parish and enriched the world with your devotion to peace and the cause of environmentalism. (Axios!) You have, therefore, been a three-fold blessing to the world. Therefore, you are thrice-worthy of the honor that you receive this afternoon, and we at Fordham make our own the greeting with which the Orthodox faithful welcome you throughout the world: Axios. Axios. Axios. May the Great Shepherd of the Flock Christ Jesus our Lord, sustain you in your ministry and continue to make you a blessing to all who meet you and benefit from your wisdom and love. Axios. Axios. Axios.


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ADDRESS OF HIS ALL HOLINESS ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH B A R T H O L O M E W

“DISCERNING GOD’S PRESENCE IN THE WORLD”

At the Convocation and Honorary Degree in Honor of His All Holiness
Fordham University Church

Fordham University
Direct Archdiocesan District
The Bronx, New York

(October 27, 2009)

* * *

Most Learned President, Father Joseph McShane,
Esteemed Members of the Board of Trustees and
Beloved Brothers of the Society of Jesus,
Most Learned Professors and Students,
Your Eminences and Graces,
Distinguished Guests,
Beloved children and people of God,

Introduction: The Ecumenical Imperative
It is with sincere gratitude that we accept this invaluable honor of being received into the doctoral college of this esteemed Jesuit school. We welcome this privilege as a recognition of the sacred ministry of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, an Apostolic institution with a history spanning seventeen centuries, throughout retaining its See in Constantinople.
Yet, our Church is no worldly institution; it wields no political authority. Instead, it leads by example, coordinating Pan-Orthodox Christian unity by virtue of a primacy of love and honor – a ministry emanating from its supra-national authority. This universal consciousness gave rise to the first seven ecumenical councils, articulated the “Symbol of faith” (or Nicene Creed) and established the New Testament Canon; it also gave birth to Churches from the Caspian to the Baltic, and from the Balkans to Central Europe; today, its jurisdiction extends to the Far East, Western Europe, Australia and America.
Of course, this ecumenicity constitutes both an ancient privilege and a lasting responsibility, demanding an open ministry within our own communions, among other Christian confessions, as well as toward the world’s faith communities. Within our ecumenical initiatives, the international theological dialogue with our “sister Church” of Rome – instituted in the 1960s as the “dialogue of love” and continuing today as the “dialogue of truth” – comprises our foremost encounter of “speaking the truth in love.” A concrete example of this encounter here at Fordham is the Orthodox Christian Minor Studies Program, which is the first of its kind at a major university in the United States. This program complements the existing annual “Orthodoxy in America Lecture” and the Orthodox Christian Fellowship, and demonstrates a practical synergistic spirit, modeling for Orthodox and Roman Catholics everywhere a shared common purpose based in truth and in love.
Nevertheless, our purpose this evening is not to outline for you the manner in which the ecumenical imperative defines our Church but, rather, to inspire in all of you the primacy of ecumenicity or the value of opening up in a world that expects us “always to be prepared to give an answer to everyone that asks us to give the reason for the hope within us.” (1 Peter 3.15) In this regard, we would like to draw your attention to three dimensions of “opening up” or “ecumenical consciousness.”
(i) Opening up to the heart,
(ii) Opening up to the other, and
(iii) Opening up to creation

(i) Opening up to the Heart: The Way of the Spirit
As faith communities and as religious leaders, it is our obligation constantly to pursue and persistently to proclaim alternative ways to order human affairs, ways that reject violence and reach for peace. Human conflict may well be inevitable in our world; but war certainly is not. If the twenty-first century will be remembered at all, it may be for those who dedicated themselves to the cause of tolerance and understanding.
Yet the pursuit of peace calls for a reversal of what has become normal and normative in our world. It requires conversion (metanoia) and the willingness to become individuals and communities of transformation. The Orthodox Christian spiritual classics emphasize the heart as the place where God, humanity, and world may coincide in harmony. Indeed, The Philokalia underlines the paradox that peace is gained through witness (martyria), perceived not as passivity or indifference to human suffering but as relinquishing selfish desires and acquiring greater generosity. The way of the heart stands in opposition to everything that violates peace. When one awakens to the way within, peace flows as an expression of gratitude for God’s love for the world. Unless our actions are founded on love, rather than on fear, they will never overcome fanaticism or fundamentalism.
In this sense, the way of the heart is a radical response, threatening policies of violence and politics of power. This is why peacemakers threatened the status quo. Indeed, the Sermon on the Mount shaped the pacifist teaching of Leo Tolstoy, whose work The Kingdom of God is Within You was molded by the writings of the Philokalia and in turn profoundly influenced both the nonviolent principles of Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948) and the civil rights activism of Martin Luther King (1929 – 1968). Sometimes, the most “provocative” message is “loving our enemy and doing good to those who hate us” (Luke 6.27). Some may announce “the end of faith” or “the end of history,” blaming religion for violent aberrations in human behavior. Yet, never was the peaceful “protest” of religion more necessary than now; never was the powerful “resistance” of religion more critical than today. Ours is the beginning, not the end of either faith or history.

(ii) Opening up to the Other: The Way of Dialogue
This is why the interreligious gatherings initiated by the Ecumenical Patriarchate are crucial for paving the way toward peaceful coexistence between the world’s peoples. Such dialogue draws people of diverse religious beliefs and cultural traditions out of their isolation, instituting a process of mutual respect and meaningful communication. When we seek this kind of encounter, we discover ways of coexisting despite our differences. After all, historical conflicts between Christians and Muslims are normally rooted in politics and not in religion. The tragic story of the crusades is a telling example, bequeathing a legacy of cultural alienation and ethnic resentment.
Speaking, then, of an inevitable and inexorable “clash of civilizations” is incorrect and inappropriate, especially when such a theory posits religion as the principal battleground on which such conflict is doomed to occur. National leaders may provoke isolation and aggression between Christians and Muslims; or else demagogues may mobilize religions in order to reinforce national fanaticism and hostility. However, this is not to be confused with the true nature and purpose of religion. Christians and Muslims lived alongside each other during the Byzantine and the Ottoman Empires, usually supported by their political and religious authorities. In Andalusia Spain, believers in Judaism, Christianity and Islam coexisted peacefully for centuries. Such historical models reveal possibilities for our own pluralistic and globalized world.
Moreover, any theory about “the clash of civilizations” is invariably naïve inasmuch as it oversimplifies differences between peoples, cultures and religions. How ironic that religion promotes a more “liberal” position than the “realism” of a political scientist! The visit in November 2006 of Pope Benedict XVI to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul was historical not only for relations between the Eastern and Western Churches but also for Christianity and Islam. The then newly-elected Pope continued a tradition established by his predecessors, the late Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, who both visited the Phanar in 1967 and in 1979, repectively.
We affectionately recall how Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras (1886-1972), an extraordinary leader of profound vision and ecumenical sensitivity, a tall man with piercing eyes, would resolve conflict by inviting the embattled parties to meet, saying to them: “Come, let us look one another in the eyes.” This means that we must listen more carefully, “look one another” more deeply “in the eyes.” As St. Nilus of Ancyra wrote: “You are a world within the world; look inside yourself and there you will see God in the whole of creation.” Each of us comprises a living icon of the divine Creator. And we are, furthermore, always – whether we know it or not – closer to one another in more ways than we are distant from one another; closer than we might ever suspect or even imagine.

(iii) Opening up to Creation: The Way of the Earth
Speaking of icons when it comes to God and creation leads us to our final point. For nowhere is the sense of openness more apparent than in the beauty of Orthodox iconography and the wonder of God’s creation. In affirming sacred images, the Seventh Ecumenical Council (Nicaea, 787) was not primarily concerned with religious art but with the presence of God in the heart, in others and in creation. For icons encourage us to seek the extraordinary in the ordinary, to be filled with the same wonder of the Genesis account, when: “God saw everything that He made and indeed, it was very good.” (Gen. 1.30-31) The Greek word for “goodness” is kallos, which implies – both etymologically and symbolically – a sense of “calling.” Icons are invitations to rise beyond trivial concerns and menial reductions. We must ask ourselves: Do we see beauty in others and in our world?
The truth is that we refuse to behold God’s Word in the oceans of our planet, in the trees of our continents, and in the animals of our earth. In so doing, we deny our own nature, which demands that we stoop low enough to hear God’s Word in creation. We fail to perceive created nature as the extended Body of Christ. Eastern Christian theologians always emphasized the cosmic proportions of divine incarnation. For them, the entire world is a prologue to St. John’s Gospel. And when the Church overlooks the broader, cosmic dimensions of God’s Word, it neglects its mission to implore God for the transformation of the whole polluted cosmos. On Easter Sunday, Orthodox Christians chant:
Now everything is filled with divine light: heaven and earth, and all things beneath the earth. So let all creation rejoice.
The principal reason for our visit to the Unites States this month was our hosting of an environmental symposium along the Mississippi River, focusing on its impact on New Orleans; this journey was also a personal pilgrimage after our original visit to New Orleans soon after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The symposium was the eighth in a series of international, inter-faith and inter-disciplinary conferences, which gather scientists and theologians, politicians and journalists, in an effort to raise awareness on regional ecological issues that have a global impact on our world. After all, we are convinced that recalling our minuteness in God’s wide and wonderful creation only underlines our central role in God’s plan for the salvation of the whole world.

Conclusion:
Opening up to the heart; opening up to the other; and opening up to creation. Our age demands no less than openness from all of us. We hear it stated often that our world is in crisis. Yet, never before in history have human beings had the opportunity to bring so many positive changes to so many people simply through encounter and dialogue. The interaction of human beings and ethnic groups is today direct and immediate as a result of technological advances in the mass media and means of travel. While it may be true that this is a time of crisis, it must equally be underlined that there has also never been greater tolerance for respective traditions, religious preferences and cultural peculiarities.
The human heart, the other person, and the natural creation each comprise profound icons of the living God. May you always remain open to the heart, to others, and to creation. This is the only way to discern the presence of God in our world.

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