Patriarch at the Synod: Unexpected Impact

Interview With Fraternal Delegate From Orthodox Church

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By Jesús Colina



VATICAN CITY, OCT. 24, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The intervention from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople at the synod of bishops marked an ecumenical milestone, says a representative of the Orthodox Church of Greece.

Archimandrite Ignatios Sotiriadis is a fraternal delegate at the world Synod of Bishops on the Word of God, which ends Sunday.

The Church of Greece representative spoke with ZENIT about the intervention from Bartholomew I, given as a homily Oct. 18 in a celebration of vespers together with Benedict XVI.

Q: You have been participating in the entire synod. What have you heard from the synod fathers about Bartholomew I's homily?

Archimandrite Ignatios: First of all, I feel proud to see His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in the Sistine Chapel, where popes are elected, also famous worldwide for its artistic value, because I consider the invitation from Pope Benedict to the "primus inter pares" of the Orthodox Church a most great honor.

The event was welcomed by the synod fathers -- all of them were present -- as a true moment of "grace" and in the same way, the Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano has presented it in a headline on the front page.

The patriarch made reference in his homily to the interpretation of the Word of God-Divine Word, according to the teaching and the writings of the fathers of the Church. It was a magisterial homily, since it presented the position of the Orthodox Church on the discussion, inspired in the richness of Eastern and Orthodox spirituality.

It was a historical event, in which a Pope celebrates vespers before the representatives of the entire Catholic episcopate and on this occasion, doesn't exercise his ministry as teacher, but concedes it to the second bishop of the Church when it was not yet divided.

What most impressed me was what the Pope said when the patriarch's homily, received with long applause, was over: "If we have common fathers, how can we not be brothers?"

Q: The synod fathers have commented on the mediation of the patriarch. In particular, they were impressed by the passage in which he explained how to "see" the Word of God through icons, expression of the incarnation of God, and in creation, highlighting the importance of protecting it, as respect for the divine Logos.

Archimandrite Ignatios: The ecumenical patriarch is known for his passion and his tireless commitment at the ecological level and the synod fathers have much appreciated his contribution to a discussion of maximum importance and current value, in which the Church should be a protagonist.

Q: But the great novelty, perhaps, has not been the patriarch's intervention, but rather the desire of the Pope, expressed at the end of vespers, to include the patriarch's proposals in the synodal proposals. This is an initiative that appears to have been welcomed by the synod fathers. In this way, for the first time in history, the magisterium of an ecumenical patriarch could be taken up by the official magisterium of the Catholic Church in the postsynodal apostolic exhortation.

Archimandrite Ignatios: When we are united in the Word of God, our path inevitably leads us toward a second stage, which is full unity, that is, a common celebration of the Eucharist. But this will not be reached as much with human efforts as with the breath and will of the Holy Spirit.

Q: Yet those who hope for this unity sometimes see it as something far off …

Archimandrite Ignatios: The separation of the Eastern and Western Church occurred over various centuries; it was not an isolated event in the year 1054, but a long cultural, linguistic process. … I think that the re-encounter will happen in the same way, following a gradual path. We separated slowly, and slowly we will unite. But it is not for us to talk of dates.

What is certain is the desire of the Orthodox Church that the Church of Rome parts with its temporal power and dedicates itself totally to its spiritual mission for the transformation of the world.