Homilies of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew


Most Learned President John DiBiaggio,
Most Learned Dean John Galvin,
Distinguished Guests,
Beloved children and people of God,

We are deeply grateful for the honor you bestow on us today.  We accept this honor not as an individual, but on behalf of the Holy Orthodox Church's more than 300 million communicants, whom we humbly serve as Ecumenical Patriarch.
Receipt of this honorary degree, a Doctorate of International Laws  from Tufts University, encourages our reflection as well as gratitude.  We  are heartened by the message of hope, optimism, and willingness to serve, reflected in the conferral of this honor.  Likewise, we are sobered by the challenges and the yet unrealized potential which this degree brings to mind.
Dear friends, it is only appropriate that an institution such as Tufts  University, with a long and successful history of combining  intellectual creativity with constructive activism, should make the decision to confer this degree on our Modesty and in so doing, on the Mother Church of Constantinople.  Your university's history demonstrates a recognition of the importance of moving beyond arid intellectualism, which results in excesses of rationalism and one-dimensional secularism.
Tufts is an authentic model of the university as lived from antiquity until the High Middle Ages. Tufts University has remained loyal to the classical ideal of the university as an environment in which the noble pursuit of truth imposes no boundaries on the human intellect and spirit.  This is evidenced by the diversity of your institution's programs in disciplines and professional domains.  These include veterinary sciences, medicine, engineering, international relations, physics, religion and philosophy, and the arts.  In short, we understand your conferral of this honorary degree on our Modesty as a shining example of your university's self-perception as an icon, a door and a threshold, which invites students to pass into a place where their pursuit of truth takes them on an adventure of inquiry into things both secular and  sacred.
Our presence here today reflects Tuft's commitment to education as a voyage of discovery into truths reflected in the universe of both spiritual and temporal realities.  We are also encouraged by the lived expressions of your commitment to education as a mission of service and activism.
Again, in their willingness to serve, the faculty, students, and alumni of Tufts University have demonstrated an extraordinary awareness of the spiritual aspects of our humanity.  More specifically, you recognize religion as a profound and powerful force for peace and reconciliation in the world.
Indeed, one of your university's flagship schools, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, is a  brilliant exemplar of the view that the path to global peace involves, rather demands,  visionary leadership and daring policy initiatives.  In this respect, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy represents the holistic philosophy of education which characterizes Tufts University as a whole.
Your university stands at the forefront of scholarship and policymaking in international affairs, precisely because of the recognition that the world's great religions offer incredible  resources.  Whether through individual leaders, communities, or ideas, these resources must be incorporated in the efforts to secure the ideals of the late 20th century.
Dear friends, we accept today's honorary degree with full awareness of  the responsibility which accompany a Doctorate in International Laws from a university such as Tufts.   By the same token, we offer up the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox Church, as uniquely endowed with worldwide and historical experiences, exceptionally suited to meeting the challenges of global peace on the eve of the new millennium.
However, in humbly offering ourselves to this service, we also exhort you to help create the possibilities for Orthodox  Christianity to contribute to this process of building peace.
Sadly enough, Orthodox Christianity -- despite its more than 300 million communicants in countries as far flung as the United States, Panama, Israel, Kenya, Greece, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Korea, Australia, and Japan and many others; despite its unbroken continuity of Tradition with the Church of Christ; despite its survival of systematic persecution in former communist countries over the better part of this century -- Orthodox Christianity remains largely unknown to scholars well-versed in the Western Christian Churches, as well as the four world religions of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism.
Equally discouraging is the fact that, despite the richness of  Orthodox Christian theology and the reemergence of the institutional Orthodox Church in Eastern Europe, policy makers involved in traditional diplomacy, and non-governmental organizations involved in efforts at conflict resolution, have failed to engage the community-building and reconciliation potential of the Orthodox Church.
Clearly, our presence here today indicates that Orthodox Christianity is not terra incognita for the scholars and practitioners who make up  the Tufts University family.  However, our optimism about your recognition is necessarily tempered by the realities just mentioned.  We are aware of the challenges associated with introducing Orthodoxy into rich scholarly debates, begun with the intellectual tradition of Max Webber.  We are cognizant of the even greater challenges related to educating policymakers about the democracy-building and peacemaking potential of Orthodox churches across the globe. 
However, above all, as believers in the God-given possibility for the salvific transfiguration of each and every member of humankind, we are confident in the unique contributions which the ideas and praxis of the Holy Orthodox Church, can make towards peace in our time and our common future.
As the Ecumenical Patriarch, the First among equals of all the Orthodox Churches -- we would like to take a few moments to share with you some of the most crucial, yet not fully known, and likewise, not fully accessed, strengths of the Orthodox Church.  We have much to contribute to the efforts of teachers, researchers, and policymakers, committed to making religion a force for the  prevention and resolution of conflicts that continue to undermine the security of human beings in societies.
We suggest to you three particular strengths of Orthodox Christianity which our Church can bring to bear in cooperation with these efforts.  We accept the reality of the nation-state, but we categorically reject systems of repression and oppression, premised on parochial nationalism, fragmenting communalism, and aggressive expansionism.
We begin with the first strength, which is Orthodox Christianity's conception of the human being as person, such that personhood is an ontological category of being.  This theological thinking is deeply rooted in our tradition which understands God as a Trinity – a community if you will – of Persons.
The human being, as an existential reality, can only be a person when he lives in freedom.  Only in a condition which reflects all range of possibility open to us through conscious choice, are we able to transform ourselves and our temporal reality, into the image of the Divine Kingdom.  Our humanity is realized through the free act of relationship with others.   Personhood is a free act of communion that  makes heterogeneity and uniqueness fundamental aspects of our humanity.
In addition to its conception of personhood, Orthodox Christianity brings a second strength to efforts at international peacemaking and reconciliation. Specifically, Orthodox Christianity is a way of life, where there is a "...profound and direct relationship between dogma and [praxis], faith and life".  This unity of faith and life, means that the reality of the eternal truths lies in their experiential power, rather than in their codification into a set of ideological constructs.  Furthermore, the equal importance of creed and experience points to an understanding of Holy Tradition as the living continuity with the personal encounter of  man with God.
Third and finally, Orthodox Christianity understands the inherent character of all creation, both humankind and the physical or natural environment, in terms of its original and potential integrity.  Because the  inherent character of all creation lies in its whole, unified, integrity, an integrity which has been disrupted by the disintegrating actions of mankind, the salvation of all creation can only come through the restoration of the innate harmony expressed in the Divine Kingdom.
Dear friends, you may wonder what relevance these three concepts -- first,  personhood;  second, way of life;  and third, integration -- have for peace in the international system.  You may argue that these three concepts are nothing more than theological abstractions divorced from the hard realities of a world marred by abominations committed in the name of religion.  You may consider these concepts hypocritical meandering in the face of  the economic blight, political charlatanism, cultural discrimination,  military savagery, and environmental toxification which destroy  individuals, villages, cities, nations, and regions with near inconceivable  regularity.  Indeed, we may wonder why it is that we have presented these three concepts as the potential strengths which the Holy Orthodox Church brings to the processes dedicated to encouraging order, providing meaning, and promoting justice in the international arena.
Yet, dear friends, we would submit that each of the three concepts suggests common points of solidarity between the Orthodox world, and the increasingly trans-national community of peacemakers. Specifically, the principles of freedom and relationality makes Orthodoxy's conception of personhood fully compatible with democratic norms, regarding individual  human rights.
Moreover, the heterogeneity and dynamism of personhood  reinforce secular principles encouraging toleration for differences within society, rather than defensive reaction against otherness.  Debates over multi-culturalism within the U.S. context, as well as efforts to craft new constitutions in the multi-ethnic societies in Southeastern Europe, would be enriched by attention to Orthodoxy's vision of the person.
Likewise, Orthodox Christianity's definition of religion as a way of life opens up an entirely new role for tradition in our late modern,  post-modern world, a role whereby tradition provides for fluid changes rather than destabilizing rupture in societies undergoing all forms of modernization.  Equally important, the unity of doctrine and praxis means that Holy Tradition is a continual, reiterative experience of truths which are "inwardly changeless...constantly assuming new forms, which supplement the old without superseding them". (Ware).
Orthodox believers can  experience their faith in a variety of local, national, and regional contexts, rather than reacting defensively against homogenizing global tendencies of liberalizing, pluralist changes.  The seamless quality of the  Orthodox unity of belief and practice also means that each person  experiences his or her faith in both the public and private spheres, in a myriad of cultural contexts, through all types of activity, rather than through the  narrow mechanisms of political power.
From the Orthodox perspective, religion as a way of life eschews political institutional power, and in fact, the Mother Orthodox Church of Constantinople is a signatory, on behalf of all Orthodox Churches around the world, to the Bosphorous  Declaration of 1994, an interfaith document which condemns all crimes in the name of religions, as a crime against religion. 
Finally, the holistic character, which marks the Orthodox  conception of the sanctity of creation, is strikingly consistent with the international community's emphasis on reconciliation.
Social scientists and  government policymakers, scholars and practitioners, all those individuals and groups concerned with describing, analyzing, and managing our current system of international relations, would do well to look to Orthodox  Christianity's theology of creation.  It is a model for how human beings can accept responsibility "to participate intentionally...[as] 'co-creators'...with the Creator", in reconciling humanity with itself, and in ending the alienation of humanity from the natural environment.
Members of the policy, academic, and media communities, who are genuinely interested in redefining the tools, constructs, and perceptual landscape which currently affect conflict resolution and peacemaking, would do well to look to the Orthodox theologian, the late Nikos Nissiotis, for an insightful formulation of peace, as the restoration of the original integrity of the cosmos.  For Nissiotis, peace is "principally a hard process of reconciliation in and with one's self and with the whole of creation."
Dear friends, we close with a pledge.  The Ecumenical Patriarchate will do all that is within our power to live up to the responsibilities attendant with the honor which you have bestowed upon us today.  Towards this end and in keeping with the venerable tradition of this university's contributions to international law and diplomacy, we humbly pledge to "pursue what makes for peace"  (Romans 14:19).
We also pledge that the Orthodox Church will undertake all of its works for global peace and international reconciliation  through the "perfect love which casts out fear." (1 Corinthians  16:13-14;  1 John 4:18).  Moreover, within the context of Tufts University as an institution committed to knowledge as the quest for truth, we pledge to enliven the truth-seeking journey of the scholars, students, and alumni of the Tufts community, with the beliefs and public works of the Holy Orthodox Church.
We match our closing pledge, dear friends, with an entreaty to you.   In the name of the rigorous standards of international law and the codification of human rights for which The Fletcher School has become a  standard-bearer, we entreat you to renew your pledges on behalf of global  peace, reconciliation, democracy, and freedom.
Your pledge demands that you endeavor to bring the rich intellectual tradition of Orthodox Christian thought -- long hidden behind the curtains of captivity, into today's academy and its scholarship and research in international relations, conflict resolution, and security studies.
The painful and joyful experiences of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople seal our pledge to uphold the principles of the honorary doctorate which you have conferred on us today.  By the same token, we ask that you work to alleviate the suffering of the Orthodox Church and all other individuals and groups persecuted because of their quest for truth.  We exhort you to enliven your knowledge through a life of service to the peaceful reconciliation of all creation.
Thank you and may God bless you.