Greeting message to
21st Anniversary Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy General Assembly
From His All Holiness
The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
Delivered by His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel of France
Moscow, 26 June 2014
On behalf of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, we congratulate you on the occasion of the 21st anniversary of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy. We especially congratulate all the young scholars and the winners of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy International Scientific essay contest. We look forward to the contributions these young people will make in the future.
It is our joy to deliver greetings to you from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a symbol of unity, serving the Orthodox Church and promoting solidarity to the world for nearly 2,000 years. We thank God for each of you and your interest in this important discussion about parliamentary democracy, Christianity and Orthodoxy.
As we reflected on the values of parliamentary democracy, Christianity and Orthodoxy in public life, We remembered the success of the twelve Apostles. We are humbled by the thought that from the twelve Apostles in the first century after Christ’s crucifixion, there are now over two billion Christians in the world. Clearly, Christianity has something to offer humanity.
Of the two billion Christians in the world, 300 million of these are Orthodox-many of them from the countries represented here. In fact, the Orthodox Patriarchates can trace their Christian heritage back to an original Apostle of Christ. In many cases in this part of the world, our Apostolic ancestor is St Andrew, who was invited by Christ Himself to “come and see”.
As you are assembled this week, perhaps you can “come and see” what parliamentary democracy can learn from Christianity about going into all the world and getting a message of peace across to diverse people? There are many values that can be shared, but the concept that can revolutionize the world is found in the words of Christ: “Love God . . . and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Embracing this one tenant could change so much that is wrong with the world. If the people in Syria who kidnapped the two Orthodox Bishops last year could embrace their neighbors in love, then the hatred toward Christians would have been overcome, and that love would have prevented the kidnapping. If there was love, Christians who have been hung on crosses to die in recent weeks would have been martyred.
If those leading the Sudanese government could see a Christian mother with love, they would not have sentenced her to death for her beliefs. If those in Egypt, could love their Coptic Christians neighbors, the murderous mobs would not be attacking fellow Egyptians, destroying lives and property.
If those who are in Nigeria could love those Muslim and Christian school girls as Christ loves us, they would not have kidnapped these young women and forced them into marriages. If those in Iraq could love their neighbors, there would not be the tragedy of Muslims killing other Muslims.
Unfortunately, the message of loving God and loving your neighbor has fallen short. At least 60 nations are experiencing some level of persecution. Why are the ideals, values and concepts of parliamentary democracy unable to address the world’s problems effectively? Perhaps, it is because humanity cannot effectively outlaw the emotion of contempt, nor can it practically legislate love. It must come from within each person.
As an Orthodox Christian, we have Christ and His example of loving God and loving our neighbor to overcome the temptation to feel contempt for another person or group. These are our eternal values with which we govern our behavior. We choose to pursue love, for the call to tolerance is no longer enough. It is a great deception.
The idea that tolerance is the answer to ethnic tensions and religious persecution is short sighted, for to merely tolerate another is, in reality, a process of separating yourself from another. Once we accept separation, we can become vulnerable to the emotion of contempt, and fall into the sin of contempt. As people develop contempt in their hearts for others, peace becomes very difficult.
This encourages us as we remember the wisdom of an ancient Psalm: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity”! The challenge for the delegates to this assembly is to create a new vision which will enable all to go forth and embrace the essence of brotherhood which exists in all of humanity.
Love unifies people across the nations, and is the foundation for lasting peace. This is what prompted us to meet with His Holiness Pope Francis, in Jerusalem recently on the 50th anniversary of the original meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I. In the Common Declaration made between us and Pope Francis at this meeting, there was a shared commitment to the principle of loving God and our neighbors, and living in peace with all the world.
The outcome of those gestures of love in Jerusalem, and our mutual commitment to peace, prompted us to participate in an unprecedented assembly to pray for peace in the Middle East earlier this month. At the request of His Holiness Pope Francis, we jointly met and prayed alongside His Holiness, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Rome on 8 June. It is our hope that a new journey to peace can begin where the peace talks fell through this spring. This convocation demonstrates that loving God and our neighbors is possible when we commit to the practice of talking with and loving those who are different than us.
There is also evidence of this same kind of love found in the discussions of the Synaxis of the Primates of the Orthodox Church last March in the Phanar, where all of us have agreed to join together for the Great and Holy Council, the Pan Orthodox Council in 2016.
In closing, let us think about these miraculous things. Governments, rulers, and philosophers come and go, but Christ is eternal. When love becomes the core concept and highest value of parliamentary democracies, it will guide a flawed and fallen humanity away from the emotion of contempt and toward peace.
As in 1 Corinthians 13.13, We pray, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love”.
Thank you and may God bless you all.