Toast by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the Occasion of His First Pastoral Visit to the Orthodox Community in Ankara

(Friday, October 6, 2017)

Your Eminences,
Your Excellencies,
Dear Fathers,
Honorable Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today marks our first visit and encounter with the Orthodox Community in Ankara. It is a great joy and blessing for us to be with you. Our presence here is not an accident; but, rather, it illustrates the bond of spiritual love that unites your community with the Mother Church, and shows that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is proud of and encourages your efforts to organize a new Orthodox Community in the capital of our beautiful country. The relationship between a parish and its bishop is very profound. It is a Eucharistic relationship by which we glorify and thank God for the gifts of love and communion that He has graciously given us. This relationship is a unity of service and care, of teaching and charity, and of conversion and holiness. As St. Paul wrote: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling…” (Ephesians 4:4)

We are particularly grateful to God for the recent creation of your community, which exemplifies in many ways the vocation and mission of the Ecumenical Patriarchate by serving all the Orthodox Christians of Ankara, regardless of their origins, their ethnic background, or their nationalities. The Ecumenical Patriarchate embraces diversity like your community and is composed of a variety of Orthodox faithful. This understanding of the mission of the Church in today’s world is based on the decisions of the Council of Constantinople of 1872 which condemned ethnophyletism. As the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church that convened in Crete in 2016 stated: “The Orthodox Church confesses that every human being, regardless of skin color, religion, race, sex, ethnicity, and language, is created in the image and likeness of God, and enjoys equal rights in society. Consistent with this belief, the Orthodox Church rejects discrimination for any of the aforementioned reasons since these presuppose a difference in dignity between people.” (Mission, par. B.2.) In light of this conciliar statement, the Orthodox Church continues to offer prayers to God “in all and for all.”

We would also like to extend our sincere gratitude to the Catholic Church, whose help has been essential. Permettez-nous ici de vous adresser quelques mots en français. En effet, l’esprit œcuménique qui anime le rapprochement entre nos Eglises sœurs de Rome et de Constantinople a permis la plus parfaite collaboration dans l’établissement de cette communauté orthodoxe permettant de témoigner de notre foi commune. Ne lit-on pas dans l’Evangile : « A ceci tous connaîtront que vous êtes mes disciples, si vous avez de l'amour les uns pour les autres. » (Jn. 13, 35) Soyez-en très chaleureusement remerciés.

We wholeheartedly welcome once again the Ambassadors representing various countries of both Orthodox and non-Orthodox traditions. Your presence tonight means a great deal to us. You honor the efforts, the progress and the development of this community at a time of expansion of the pastoral mission of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the only Orthodox Church with the canonical authority to minister to the Orthodox faithful in this country.

At this time, we would like to especially greet our Turkish friends for honoring all of us by their presence on this wonderful occasion.  We are pleased by this opportunity to break bread with them as well as to share our joy on this significant occasion in the spiritual life of our Orthodox community in Ankara.  As you all know, Turkey has a rich history based on its strategic location. Turkey has been a crossroads between East and West for centuries. It is a place of encounter and dialogue allowing Orthodox Communities to enjoy freedom and unity under the Ecumenical Patriarchate, thanks to the spirit of laïcité. In this context, we deepen the rich experience of articulating unity and diversity by dialogue. Dialogue is something crucial which is not limited only to ecumenical and interreligious matters. It is something that has rather become a mindset and a vision for the future of our society.

Last but not least, we would like to express our own encouragement to the community and especially to the Very Reverend Great Archimandrite Vissarion who serves you and your parish wholeheartedly. Creating a parish is a great experience in the life of a Christian. It is a divine mission and a great responsibility. But as Christ says in the Gospel: “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) You should therefore consider your community as a gift to you from God and strive to be good stewards of it, through caring for each other as the members of Christ’s body, which, in other words, is the Church. Thus, by being faithful stewards of this gift, God will shower you with His blessings and grace.

Raising this glass, we wish to you all, Your Eminences, Excellences, and all the Honorable Guests honoring us by their presence tonight, health, strength and divine guidance, so that, in unity and harmony, we all may contribute to the spirit of dialogue, so that this beautiful Orthodox Community in Ankara may continue to glorify God and be a positive component of the religious landscape of the capital, advocating for peaceful coexistence, in mutual respect of all fellow humans sharing a common destiny.

We thank you.