TOAST by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Luncheon Hosted by the Orthodox Metropolis of Korea (December 6, 2018)

Your Eminences,
Your Excellencies the Ambassadors,
Honorable guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

On this occasion of the feast day of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, we are thankful to the Lord to have partaken a short time ago in the Holy Eucharist, which we celebrate “for the peace of the whole world, the stability of the holy Churches of God and for the unity of all,” and which has enlightened and sanctified this luncheon offered by the Orthodox Metropolis of Korea, for which we express our warmest and heartfelt appreciation.

Furthermore, we also wish to extend our wholehearted greetings to all of our fellow dinner guests that honor us with their presence and, as a colorful, harmonious mosaic, brighten this esteemed gathering: The high-ranking guests from the Roman Catholic Church, the NCCK, respected leaders of the Buddhist community, the Traditional Korean Religion and esteemed politicians and diplomats. In today’s fragmented world, such a mosaic is a de facto act of “conciliation and reconciliation,” (Romans 5:10-11) and a cause for praise and gratitude to the Almighty.

Our Church of Constantinople has a unique, two-thousand-year-old history, and as the Mother Church of Orthodoxy worldwide, has served and continues to serve humanity in a perpetual spirit of love, without any racial, linguistic or cultural discrimination. Throughout the ages, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in its centuries-old tradition of selfless humanitarian service, has often had to pay for its Christian presence and witness in the world through the price of martyrdom and blood; this is precisely why it has a multitude of Martyrs—that is, pious individuals who have watered the tree of Christian Faith with their own blood.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate, though, continues to be a target for those who claim that its mission supersedes its privileges and, thus, constantly seek to supplant its authority. This is exactly what we are currently witnessing as a reaction to our endeavors to resolve and heal schisms in order to bring much desired peace to Ukraine. And yet, the Mother Church is not intimidated by threats. Instead, it follows the narrow and difficult uphill path of duty and sacrifice—always keeping nurturing love and ministry to others at its core. This is the mission that God has bestowed upon His Holy and Great Church, and we shall continue to uphold it with steadfast dedication and unwavering perseverance.

The efforts of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for peace; for the reconciliation of nations; for the resolution of the refugee crisis; for addressing the issues of poverty, as well as human trafficking and modern slavery; for the protection of the environment; for the promotion of inter-Christian and interfaith dialogue, as well as justice, freedom, the defense of human rights, and the cessation of racial and all other forms of discrimination, take place in the context of its spiritual mission in the contemporary world.

The now historic Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, which took place on the island of Crete in June 2016, proclaimed in the most emphatic way that:

Finding constant inspiration in this expectation and foretaste of the Kingdom of God, the Church cannot remain indifferent to the problems of humanity in each period. On the contrary, she shares in our anguish and existential problems, taking upon herself—as the Lord did—our suffering and wounds, which are caused by evil in the world and, like the Good Samaritan, pouring oil and wine upon our wounds (Luke 10:34) through words of patience and comfort, (Rom 15:4; Heb. 13:22) and through love in practice. The word addressed to the world is not primarily meant to judge and condemn the world, (John 3:17; 12:47) but rather to offer to the world the guidance of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God—namely, the hope and assurance that evil, no matter its form, does not have the last word in history and must not be allowed to dictate its course. (The Mission of the Orthodox Church in Today’s World)

Therefore, we beseech the Prince of Peace, the most merciful Lord, to bring about peace and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula—thus ending the Korean War once and for all—and to reunite the pained families in North and South Korea, who, because of the war, have remained separated from each another for almost seventy years. May the Everlasting Father bring unending prosperity to you, our beloved Korean People.

Dear fellow guests,
In raising this glass and wishing all of you good health and length of days, we conclude with Saint Paul’s greeting: “May the God of love and peace be with you,” our dear, beloved brothers and sisters. Amen.