At the Dinner In Honor of His All Holiness at World of Coca Cola hosted by Muhtar Kent

Toast of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW

Holy Metropolis of Atlanta
Atlanta, Georgia

October 29, 2009

* * *

Your Eminence Archbishop Demetrios,
Most Reverend Metropolitans and Bishops,
Honorable Muhtar and Defne Kent, our Beloved Friends and Hosts,
Distinguished Guests,
Beloved in the Lord,

Tonight we have gathered at this remarkable center, in truth, a museum to one of the most beloved products and, if we might use the word, ‘icons,’ of the twentieth century. We have been brought together by a dear and trusted friend, Mr. Muhtar Kent, who presides over this remarkable company with more than one million employees in two hundred countries as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

We would say to our dear friend: Muhtar, with all that you must attend to on a daily basis; you are one of the few people in the world who can imagine what it is to be Ecumenical Patriarch!

And we would add, the care and the compassion with which you attend to the business of this world reflects the highest of ethical and moral values that we strive daily to bring to the purely spiritual mission of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the First See of the Orthodox Christian Church.

Many of our goals are the same: a better world through cross-cultural understanding; the valuation of every human person, regardless of their origin or belief system; dialogue and mutual understanding. The Ecumenical Patriarchate, always responsive to its arduous yet sustaining vocation to reach out to the ends of the oikoumene, the inhabited world, with a message of peace, reconciliation and above all love, finds refreshment, if we might also use this word, from the friendship and trust that it has with Muhtar Kent.

Dear friend Muhtar, you once said that “trust is more valuable than gold,” and these words bear witness to the mind and consciousness that have characterized your life. And for those who know of the nobility of your parents and their sacrifice for the sake of basic human values, your example is a true testament of honor. We know that their heroic efforts on behalf of Jewish persons during the Second World War were based not in any one religious world view, but in the all-encompassing vision of love for all humankind, and the value of every human life. May the Lord of all grant them eternal rest with the righteous of every generation who have been well pleasing to Him.

* * *

In the modern world, words like value, trust and fidelity have become part and parcel of the terminology of the financial world. But their meanings have become estranged from concepts of confidence and faithfulness; they have literally become diminished to the lowest common denominator – money. And as a result, we are witnessing the perennial insecurity that comes when gold becomes more valuable than trust. It is an inversion best described rhetorically by Jesus Himself when He asked, “Which is greater: the gold or the Temple that sanctifies the gold?” (Matthew 23:17).

Faithfulness, commitment, trust – belief in something greater than oneself and one’s own interests – this is the essence of the fabric that binds the human family together. Whether we speak of the smallest of families or the greatest of nations, belief in the transcendent is essential for the healthy prosperity of all.

Indeed, when it comes to spiritual perspectives, our human family is quite diverse – many religions, many interpretations within religions – even a single verse of sacred text can become a source of endless, and more often than not, fruitless argument. But there is one reality that all of us can agree on – that we share this planet earth. In the widest sense of the word, we all share one ecosystem. You may recall that the prefix “eco’ comes from the Greek word “oikos” which means “house.” Truly, we have one house for the one human family, and this family must share it and must be responsible for it.

Concern for our common home is what brought us in the recent days back to New Orleans and to the mighty Mississippi River. As we have traveled the globe in our previous seven symposia, we have found that bringing together seemingly opposing camps – that is, religion and science – is an effective way of raising awareness about the dangers of ineffective action or even inaction.

Nevertheless, as a purely spiritual institution, the Ecumenical Patriarchate fosters more than mere dialogue. We bring a profound and timeless message of the inter-connectedness of all human persons – with their Creator, with His creation, and with each other. It is in the nexus of these relationships that we can discover the solutions to the problems than not only vex our world, but even those that plague and threaten our world.

But we have not come here this evening only to speak of relationships. We have come to celebrate one.

Gathered here together with all of you, we must speak of refreshment, something well known in this universe of Coca Cola. Among so many friends and fellow-laborers in the constant struggle for peace and reconciliation, we are reminded of the Psalm:

“Behold now, what is so good or so joyous as for brethren to dwell together in unity?” (Psalm 132:1)

Truly, as we lift our glass in thanksgiving for all of you, we celebrate with joy in our heart, and with great gratitude for the goodness of God, Whose love and infinite mercy we pray be with all of you. Amen.





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