Feast of St. Andrew Celebrated at Ecumenical Patriarchate
Friday, December 2, 2005
ISTANBUL - (Constantinople) Turkish Daily News
Wednesday was the Feast of St. Andrew, the apostle of Christ who is
considered to be the founding saint of the Orthodox Church in Istanbul. It was a
time of fellowship and collegiality as guests from the United States, Greece and
elsewhere came to join the Greek Orthodox patriarch and members of the Orthodox
community in celebrating the occasion.
St. Andrew is thought to have been the first disciple to follow Jesus Christ
during his ministry and as such occupied a powerful position among Christ's
followers, although he had started life as a fisherman. He also convinced his
more famous brother, St. Peter, to be a follower. Afterwards, St. Andrew
traveled to Byzantium, Greece and southern Russia. Later he was martyred by the
Roman governor in Patrae on an X-shaped cross that is now the flag of Scotland.
St. Andrew is the patron saint of Russia and Scotland as well as being the
founding saint of the Greek Orthodox Church.
The ceremony at the Church of St. George at Fener, where the worshippers
gathered, was a solemn one as befits such occasions. The patriarch was joined by
Cardinal Walter Kasper, who is the president of the Pontifical Council for the
Promotion of Christian Unity and who represented Pope Benedict XVI in Rome, a
delegation from the Roman Catholic Church in Rome, a group of Archons, who are
an important part of the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States, and members
of the diplomatic corps in Turkey.
On this occasion the patriarch's message was one of dialogue between the
Roman and Greek Orthodox churches. He stressed the difficulty of achieving such
a dialogue that could take years to develop after so much time had passed. There
are matters of doctrinal differences, and he pointed out that there were those
who felt that making any compromise would be to sell out. On the other hand, the
patriarch made clear that there would be no doctrinal compromise to reach a
successful conclusion to discussions aimed at bringing the Roman and Greek
Orthodox churches closer together.
Patriarch Bartolomeos has long been an advocate of dialogue as a means of
reaching an understanding -- not just between churches. He has preached peace
and tolerance at every turn, initiating meetings on these very subjects ever
since he became patriarch.
There are those who doubt his motives, who accuse him of trying to set up a
mini-Vatican, of trying to exert his influence, which is totally spiritual, over
Orthodox believers throughout the world, for other ends. This is as true in
Turkey as it is in Greece. Those who suspect his motives don't know him and are
unable to see him for what he really is and what he is really doing. A
soft-spoken man with a dignified air about him, he has long been interested in
the environment and environmental issues, an interest he pursued long before
becoming patriarch. He has added to this a passionate interest in
reconciliation, tolerance and peace. His invitations to discussions on these
issues include members of the Muslim community, starting with the head of the
Religious Affairs Directorate in Turkey.
The reception, held at the Patriarchate in Fener on Wednesday night, was a
reflection of his interests. The many people who attended were of differing
backgrounds and interests. From the delegation from Rome to the Archons from the
United States, from the Greek Orthodox community in Istanbul to Turkish
journalists, the reception showed the wide-ranging contacts of the patriarch.
Cordially welcoming his guests, Bartolomeos stressed that the Patriarchate
was a religious institution and has been called the "ecumenical" Patriarchate
since the earliest centuries of Christianity. Its intent was and is to look
after the spiritual needs of its followers wherever they might be found. He
pointed out that this was basically a coordinating role such as convoking
inter-Orthodox councils, filling vacancies when there was no other way to do so.
While it might enjoin unity or the careful observation of doctrine, it would not
interfere with internal administration on its own.
A major theme of the patriarch's address was to reject the idea that the
Patriarchate was involved in or might become involved in politics. "We, as the
ecumenical Patriarchate, do not become involved in politics. We do, however,
maintain our Christian convictions, for it is our religious duty to do so:
Convictions that redound on the social situation of the various peoples and seek
an amelioration of the circumstances of human life. We advocate, for instance,
the equality of men and women and their equitable treatment before the law,
without being heedless of the distinct ordering of the roles that each gender
fulfills on account of its natural attributes. ... We believe that everybody has
the right to live in a healthy and clean natural environment."
He then turned to the issue of human rights, declaring respect for them "to
be utterly indispensable." He continued, "Indeed we believe that general social
prosperity, which averts criminality and disturbance on the part of the
disenfranchised by abolishing this class, rests on the wise and benevolent
handling of unavoidable social disparities."
"All of these matters are, of course, related to politics, but we are not
driven by political motives. We are impelled solely by humanitarian
considerations and we range ourselves alongside all good efforts undertaken in
this respect and support them wherever they may arise."
The patriarch reiterated his wish that Turkey would become a full member of
the European Union and expressed his hope that this would come about in a short
period of time. "We are gladdened by the European prospects of our country and
support it on its path toward accession, for we believe that through accession
to the European Union after the legislative, administrative and spiritual
adjustments, not only shall religious freedom be better protected, as well as
minority issues be dealt with more effectively, but the prosperity of the
Turkish people shall increase."
As part of the St. Andrew celebrations, a two-day seminar is being held that
started last night. In the coming days, we will be reporting more fully on the
subjects that were discussed.
By Gul Demir & Niki Gamm
© 2005 Dogan Daily News Inc. www.turkishdailynews.com.tr