Archbishop of Canterbury's Response to Welcome Message by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

Your All-Holiness, Beloved Brother in Christ,

I thank you most warmly for your welcome and greetings and at the outset bring the greetings from the Anglican Communion and the Church of England. I realise that this is an initial and very short visit, but it is a vital opportunity so soon after my enthronement for us to be able to share and be strengthened through this more personal visit. Your All Holiness has once mentioned that in a world “becoming smaller and smaller distance-wise, the need for personal communication has become imperative.” I see my short visit in that light. To be with you in this holy and historic place is indeed a great privilege. The warmth of your welcome adds to my deep sense of privilege at meeting you.

This city has left its mark in a diversity of ways upon Christianity as a whole. It was from this city that manuscripts of the Bible in the original languages were received in the West. This city (also renowned as the New Rome) is your seat as the Ecumenical Patriarch, and we continue to benefit from the insight of what the secular and Christian leadership through this link has taught the world church about the relationship between Christianity and the application of worldly power over the years. Your history is more and more important in the increasing confrontations of the world in which religion is used as a pretext for violence that in reality comes from greed and the pride of human beings.

You have demonstrated over the centuries the martyrdom to which we are called in scripture, the call to witness in word and life, a call more important than life itself. The cost of that martyrdom is seen in so many places today. Closest to here we remember and seek the mercy of Christ and intercession of the Blessed Mother on Syria, especially for His Eminence Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim of Aleppo of the Syrian Patriarchate of Antioch, and His Eminence Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi of Aleppo and Alexandrette of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, for whom we pray daily. You yourself have been an example of peace and reconciliation, politically, with the natural world and in your historic visit for the installation of His Holiness Pope Francis I.

Istanbul is at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. It is the place where two great faiths meet. Its significance for trade is enormous and continues to remind us of Turkey’s importance as an industrial and commercial nation. Commerce and trade may be objects of greed, but may in the Grace of God open the way to dialogue between nations.

Your All Holiness, my distinguished predecessors, Archbishop Robert Runcie in 1982, Archbishop George Carey in 1992 and Archbishop Rowan Williams in 2003 all visited this holy place and have been blessed by the encounter and engagement. As Archbishop Rowan has emphasised during his last visit, our roots go back to the Christian missions of the days of Constantine. He furthermore expressed a particular concern for Eastern and Western traditions of the Church to be reconciled.

Such reconciliation is also very dear to my heart and is one of my key priorities. It is the call of Christ that all may be one so that the world may see. I will therefore be taking back with me the warmth of your hospitality and also, after our discussions today and tomorrow, a renewed and refreshed focus for greater unity and closer fellowship. We want to carry the cross of our divisions, but be filled with the hope and joy that comes from the grace and the love of Jesus.

This can be further developed through the ongoing conversations in the International Commission for Anglican Orthodox Theological Dialogue and through the more informal talks that happen. I can assure you that I will provide the necessary encouragement for our ecumenical journey together.

During the last years we have seen the world changing in a diversity of ways. We have had an economic crisis through a banking system which had lost its way, seeking its own good at the expense of nations and their peoples. There is conflict in many regions of the world, acute poverty, unemployment and an influx of oppressed people driven away from their own countries and seeking refuge elsewhere. In Southern Europe terrible suffering has seized the people, most especially the poor for whom we weep and cry to God. The churches are rising to the challenge, empowered by the Holy Spirit and filled with his compassion. Hence in standing with the poor in love, we may work together. How can we strengthen and help each other bear one another’s burdens?

Your Holiness, I am aware that you are known as the ‘Green Patriarch’. We are grateful for your energy and efforts to raise awareness for preserving and protecting our environment. You have been the leading voice expressing concerns and have initiated a number of seminars and dialogues, also in co-sponsorship with His Royal Highness Prince Philip, to mobilise spiritual and moral forces to achieve harmony between humanity and nature. This third millennium has made us realise that environmental issues require our day to day attention. We are witnesses to global calamities. The Christian Orthodox theological understanding points us all to our natural environment as part of Creation and characterised by sacredness. This is a responsibility for all of us and your contributions will enable us to speak out more intentionally on environmental issues at an individual, national and international level. Abuse and destruction of the environment denies the grace of God. Economic crises tempt governments and people to look to the short term and forget the needs of the generation to come.

Finally, it is clear to me that our theological dialogues today do face new challenges and I do recognise that there are also some issues that raise difficulties, but I take courage from your words to one of my predecessors:

In spite of such obstacles, we cannot allow ourselves to congeal the love between us which is also manifested in dialogue so “let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” with the good hope that the Lord of powers and mercy “will not let us be tested beyond our strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that we may be able to endure it” (1Cor. 10:13).

Your All Holiness, this is a vital visit for me and it would be my privilege to be able to welcome you in 2015 to London. I look forward to the remaining time with you and the Patriarchate. There is much that unites us and as we continue to strengthen the bonds of friendship our understanding of each other’s traditions will grow. It is therefore in this spirit that I greet you and ask for your prayers for our ministry.