The final three days of the Ecumenical Meeting of the Bishops Friends of the Focolare were spent at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the seat of Patriarch Bartholomew I where they took part in the feast day of Saint Andrew. For 1700 years the Patriarchate has been the reference point for the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians.
People continued to trickle in on Sunday afternoon, November 29th, some women wearing veils. They were not only Orthodox faithful from Istanbul, but also from Russia and Greece. It was impressive to see 35 bishops from 16 different Churches lined up in the Church of Saint George. The goal of both the Sunday Evening Prayer and the long Liturgy on November 30th which is the feast day of Saint Andrew, was not to recite a catalogue of prayers but to become prayer, as Origin says: “All of our life should be an extended and uninterrupted prayer.”
The Patriarch began his remarks by paralleling Andrew, the brother of Peter and the “first called,” to Chiara Lubich, the “first called” to the charism of unity. “We have no right to be discouraged,” he concluded “in front of the clamour of so many horrors that are being perpetrated in the streets of the world; rather we have a duty to proclaim to everyone that dialogue, understanding and the positive attitude stemming from our faith in Christ can win. The holy Apostle Andrew did not have doubts in meeting the Master, and neither did Chiara have doubts in entrusting herself to Him. The same for us, all of us conscious of our responsibility, do not have doubts about the path on which we have walked, in the encounter between our Churches; in the encounter with the faiths, in the encounter with humanity that suffers, because only Love can win and the gates of hell will never prevail against it.”
It was a public acknowledgement of the role Chiara had in the Ecumenical journey, a charism that had also stimulated Bartholomew I very active in the field of ecumenism with his recent trips to Italy, England, Belgium and Bulgaria.
We asked him the motive for his incessant efforts in favour of unity. “Because it is the Lord’s will,” he answered. “Jesus himself prayed to the Father for the unity of all believers. His prayer, His will is a commandment for us. We must work and pray for the realisation of this Divine Will. Unity would then contribute to world peace, through the brotherhood amongst the nations. And the world needs it today more than ever.”
Compiled by Aurelio Molè