- Created on 12 March 2010
Speech of H. B. Patriarch Gregorios III on the occasion of his visit to his brother,
H. B. Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Church,
and attendance at the consecration on 13 March 2010
of four new bishops at the Mar Ivanios Stadium, Nalanchira, India
Dear brother in Christ,
Your Beatitude, Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis,
Dear new brother bishops,
Dear bishops, priests, sisters,
Dear faithful of the venerable Syro-Malankara Apostolic Church of Saint Thomas,
Let us thank the Lord for having brought us together through the grace of the Holy Spirit. Christ said,
"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18: 20) That promise is realised today in this holy assembly, filling our hearts with joy at meeting with Your beloved Beatitude, on the occasion of the consecration of four bishops for your venerable Apostolic Church of Saint Thomas. To you and to our brothers, the new bishops, congratulations!
We are glad to bring greetings from the Mother Church, Jerusalem, and from the Apostolic Church of Christ in the Middle East to your Holy, Apostolic Church founded by the Holy Apostle Thomas.
Cordial, joyful greetings to you, dear Beatitude, and to you bishops of this Church, to you newly consecrated bishops, and to all the members of the Holy Synod, from our Patriarchal Church of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, represented here by Rt. Rev. Archbishop Joseph Absi, Patriarchal Vicar in Damascus and by Rt. Rev. Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey, Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem, formerly Patriarchal Vicar in Cairo and a great friend to your and our Indian sisters who are so devoted to our Church in Cairo.
With me are my Chancellor, Rev. Father Tony Dib and the Patriarchal Economos, Rev. Father Elie Chatawi. All our Melkite faithful are with us in prayer.
What courage! The Holy Apostle Thomas realised the prophecy which says, "Their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world, the oikoumene." (Psalm 18: 4 LXX; Romans 10: 18) Moreover, your Christian presence of Saint Thomas in India, in Kerala, is the revelation of the command of our Lord, Jesus Christ, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature." (Mark 16: 15) This beautiful message of Christ reached Kerala in about the year 50 of our era.
Your and our Churches are proud to have taken the step of bringing about perfect, definitive unity with their sister Church of Rome which "presides in charity." (Saint Ignatius, Romans, Prologue)
We continually proclaim this unity, while both remaining faithful to our Eastern tradition and ecclesial heritage which are common to us and to our Orthodox brethren and to our brotherly relations with them.
We both affirm our commitment to continuing intense, vital and practical dialogue with our Muslim brethren and, for you, with Hindus as well.
We had a very happy meeting with you, dear brother, at Castel Gandolfo near Rome, when all we Eastern Catholic Patriarchs and Major Archbishops gathered around the Holy Father on Saturday, 19 September, 2009. That meeting was a most eloquent expression of our perfect communion with the Holy Father and with the Church of Rome.
We were also able to express our role and mission, and that of our Eastern Catholic Churches in the ecumenical movement in relation to our Orthodox brethren; and to articulate our role and mission in the dialogue with Islam in the Arab world with its Muslim majority and for you with Hinduism.
No-one else can take our role or place in that regard. That is why it is imperative to remain where we are, and not emigrate, but rather fulfil our role.
Furthermore, we hope that this meeting of Patriarchs and Major Archbishops with the Holy Father will not be a unique event! Rather, we hope for regular, annual or other periodic meetings, so that we may constitute a sort of Eastern Catholic Assembly around His Holiness in a very discreet, brotherly, evangelical way, in all simplicity and humility, far from the mass media. The purpose of that would be to reaffirm our communion with Rome and to strengthen our role in the ecumenical movement and in religious and humane dialogue at all levels.
In fact you and we believe, in all humility, that the courage of our ancestors in taking the bold step of effecting union with Rome was a blessed, holy move and one worthy of profound esteem, since it fulfils the prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ before his sacred passion, "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe ..." (John 17: 21)
Indeed, with the Blessed Pope John XXIII, we have understood that "what unites us is much greater than what divides us." And with the Servant of God John Paul II and the Holy Father Benedict XVI, "we express the joy we feel as brothers [with the Orthodox] and renew our commitment to move towards full communion. " We Melkite Greek Catholics and Syro-Malankaran Catholics, thank the Lord, enjoy full communion with Rome.
We pray daily in our Liturgy for the unity of faith and the communion of the Holy Spirit, while we entrust ourselves to Christ our God.
Catholic-Orthodox dialogue is moving forward. Now, since Ravenna, it has been concentrating on the problem and concept of the service of Primacy in the Church. We shall reach the day when we can pray together our ecclesial Creed, "We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church."
Next October (10-24 October) we shall be celebrating the special Synod for the Catholic Churches in the Middle East, entitled, The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness. Preparation in our eparchies and parishes for this synod and its celebration in Rome will be a great opportunity for developing awareness among our faithful about their vital role in remaining where they are, in the land called by the President of the Syrian Arab Republic Bashar Al Assad, "Syria, the cradle of Christianity."
Dearly beloved brother,
Dear brothers in the episcopate,
Dear priests and pastors,
Dear monks and nuns,
Dear faithful of Saint Thomas,
The motto of the special Synod for the Middle East is Jesus' saying to his disciples, "Fear not, little flock." (Luke 12: 32)
Take heart, little flock! Don't be afraid, in the Middle East and here in Kerala, of being light, salt and leaven in the lump of this world! (Matthew 5: 13-16; 13: 33)
We repeat this in a form which includes us all, and which is a profession of faith, full of trust, confidence and courage: we Christians in the Middle East and in Kerala wish to be light, salt and leaven in the lump for our Orthodox brethren, our Muslim and Hindu brethren and for every human being.
It is the role of Christianity and of the Christian, as the Servant of God, John Paul II affirmed, in his last Message for the World Day of Peace, January, 2005, "Can an individual find complete fulfilment without taking account of his social nature, that is, his being ‛with' and ‛for' others?... Each person, in some way, is called to work for the common good, constantly looking out for the good of others as if it were his own."
May the Holy Virgin intercede for us! May Saint Thomas pray for us! May our holy patrons pray for us and may Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, bless and confirm us in our holy Christian faith. Amen.
Translation from the French: V. Chamberlain
 Common Declaration of Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Bartholomew from the Phanar 30 November 2006