Phanar, Oct. 13, 2008 (CWNews.com) - The world's Orthodox leaders, coming together under the leadership of Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, have joined in a strong statement of support for Orthodox unity. Setting aside disputes that have strained relations among them-- and between Constantinople and Moscow-- the Orthodox leaders affirmed, in a joint statement released October 12:
The Orthodox Church, having the understanding of the authentic interpretation of the teaching of the Apostle to the Nations, in both peaceful and difficult times of its two-thousand year historical course, can and must promote to the contemporary world the teaching not only regarding the restoration in Christ of the unity of the entire human race, but also regarding the universality of His work of redemption, through which all the divisions of the world are overcome and the common nature of all human beings is affirmed.
The Orthodox patriarchs met at Phanar, the historic home of the Constantinople patriarchate, in response to a call from Patriarch Bartholomew. In greeting his fellow patriarchs, Bartholomew called attention to the Pauline year, and remarked: "Nothing else made Paul as sad as lack of unity among Christians."
The Ecumenical Patriarch went on to say that his own role, as the leading prelate in the Orthodox world, was to serve as a focus of unity among the churches "without reducing the importance of autonomy." Although in recent months the Russian Orthodox Church has repeatedly questioned the mandate of the Ecumenical Patriarch as a spokesman for the Orthodox world, Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow joined in the October 12 statement, which affirmed the role of the Patriarch of Constantinople as the "first among equals" of the Orthodox patriarchs.
In their statement the Orthodox patriarchs called for joint action to redress many of the problems facing the contemporary world, including violence, economic inequality, and ecological damage. "Orthodox Christians share responsibility for the contemporary crisis of this planet," they said, "because they have tolerated and indiscriminately compromised on extreme human choices, without credibly challenging these choices with the word of faith."
The patriarchs pledged their 'unswerving position and obligation to safeguard the unity of the Orthodox Church," and promised to work toward "the swift healing of every canonical anomaly that has arisen" within the Orthodox world-- that is, to end the jurisdictional disputes that have threatened ecumenical ties among the Orthodox churches.
The October 12 statement, released from the headquarters of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, was signed by all of the leading patriarchs of the Orthodox world, including:
- Bartholomew I of Constantinople
- Alexei II of Moscow
- Ignatius of Antioch
- Theodore of Alexandria
- Theophilos of Jerusalem
- Chrysostomos of Cyprus; and
- Ieronymos of Athens.
The statement was also signed by prelates representating the patriarchates of Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, and Poland. ands and Slovakia.