September 3, 2011

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew A Champion of Orthodox Unity

By Panagiotis Andriopoulos, theologian

In our earlier article titled "Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Dialogist", we demonstrated the great contribution of Patriarch Bartholomew to the cause of dialogue at all levels: with the sister Orthodox Churches, the Christian confessions, the monotheistic religions in the modern world and every human person. For who has met the Patriarch and did not enjoy real, not formal, contact, which consists in looking into the face of another and having a genuine interest for others. Even if it is a few minutes "off the cuff" meeting.

Dialogue, therefore, describes the Ecumenical Patriarch. And now, there is held in the Phanar a Synaxis of the Primates of the Patriarchates and the Archbishop of Cyprus, which convened at the initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and some are alarming that it will supposedly strike at the unity of the Orthodox ... from this selected Synaxis of the Primates of the East.

But if anyone considers recent Church history, notably the twenty year Patriarchal reign of Bartholomew, they will immediately realize that never in history has there been so many and so frequent Pan-Orthodox Assemblies. Of these Primates are all the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, and even representatives of the local Churches at the Pan-Orthodox Conferences, for various topics, and countless opportunities for informal meetings within and outside the Phanar with Primates and representatives of Orthodox Churches. This is because the goal of Patriarch Bartholomew is the unity of the Orthodox, despite the occasional problems that will always exist. Even his hometown, Imvros, and even Cappadocia, were made Inter-Orthodox by the Patriarch, inviting with him Primates and representatives of Churches.

Even in Soumela in Pontus last year and this year, he sent a public invitation to the Moscow Patriarch Kiril to concelebrate Liturgy side by side in mid-August in the historic monastery.

And now, some - maybe not that many - come to challenge the Synaxis of the Primates of the Patriarchates and the Archbishop of Cyprus, convened for a specific reason (the fate of the Christian peoples of the Middle East amid the turmoil in countries of the Arab world), and accuse the Ecumenical Patriarch of intentions that are totally unrealistic.

Someone put on the table once again the logic of numbers: the Primates represent only a small sheepfold compared to all the Orthodox. This ridiculous "argument" does not need to be refuted by anyone. Just think of the Archshepherd Christ, Who immediately ran for the one sheep, even though He had 99 with Him. And even so, those who make up these Churches no matter how few they are, they are the first priority of a responsible leader.

In short: Once again, the Ecumenical Patriarch heeds the messages and the developments of the times and acts accordingly. Any who are unhappy - though publicly no Orthodox Church took a stand against the Synaxis - let them stay with their self-pity and opportunism. Patriarch Bartholomew thankfully looks forward. Until the various primates return from this event, he would have made the next leap ... greater than the damage.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos