The message below, whose title of "Sacred Concern and 'Ecumenical' Dialogues" was given by the periodical as a selected segment of the address by Ecumenical Patriarch to the members of the Parish Community of Saint Therapon of Mytilene, Lesvos Island, when they visited him at the Patriarchate, on Sunday, the 18th of August, 2002.
by His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I
...With reference to the pious concern and cautiousness that you have humbly and politely expressed in your letter, Fr. Athanasios, with regard to certain initiatives by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and other Orthodox Churches on the so-called "ecumenical dialogues" with other Christian dogmas and monotheistic religions, I would like to reassure you and to stress that we do not deviate from the guideline of our Fathers.
On the occasion of the feast-day of our Holy Mother the Theotokos, I had made reference during the Vespers for August 15th to the blessed John of Damascus, who is one of the Fathers and authors of our Church that had preoccupied themselves especially with the Most Holy Theotokos, the dogmatic teachings and the opening towards Muslim theologians. During the time of the blessed Damascene, Islam was in a period of flourishing, and even of aggressiveness. Even in a historical environment such as that, the blessed Damascene did not hesitate to embark on a dialogue with the Muslims, in order to make a "statement on the hope within us". Several centuries later, Saint Gregory Palamas - another important personage among the Holy Fathers of our Church - also had dialogues with Muslims and had written about Islam. Saint Mark of Ephesus - one of the more recent saints of our Church, whom our so-called "conservative" brothers regard as a standard-bearer and project him as a norm - had not hesitated to travel to the West and converse with the Catholics. Saint Mark was not finally convinced, and had, rightly, not signed the pseudo-union of Ferrara-Florence (1438-1439), as he had acted according to his conscience. He did not, however, hesitate, nor did he avoid discussions with the Catholics, which is exactly what the Ecumenical Patriarchate and our Orthodox Church are also doing nowadays.
The inter-Christian dialogues with the Catholics, the Anglicans, the Lutherans, the Reformers, the Old Catholics are not conducted only by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but also by the individual, autocephalous and autonomous sister Churches, under the coordination and the leadership responsibility of the Patriarchate. It is my belief that the Orthodox Churches that are involved in discussions with the heterodox and other religions have not betrayed their faith. Pray that God enlightens us as well as the theologians who are involved in the inter-Christian and inter-religious dialogues, so that we might give a proper witness that will enlighten our brothers who are in a fallacy. And may we indeed succeed in illuminating them and enlightening them, to the degree that they will eventually decide to come to the Upright Faith. That is our prayer, our aspiration and our desire!
Sent to parishioners, September - November 2002