Address of His All-holiness Patriarch Bartholemew to the on-line Conference of the French Vicariate on 6th June 2021
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
First of all, allow me to greet each and every one of you fraternally by using the customary paschal greeting of our Church: Christ is risen!
I would like to convey my very sincere thanks to the organisers of this meeting and to all those who agreed to participate in these exchanges and debate on the occasion of the 90 years since Metropolitan Euloge of blessed memory led his diocese and all the parishes he was responsible for, as well as the Saint Sergius Institute, under the omophora of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Since then, throughout this period of nearly a century, the members of our former exarchate, under the leadership of Metropolitan Euloge and his successors, have worked in a creative way to establish and strengthen ecclesial life in Western Europe, as evidenced by the patristic and liturgical renewal resulting from what has come to be called the “School of Paris”.
Our predecessor on the patriarchal throne, Photius II, upon the visit of Metropolitan Euloge at the beginning of the year 1931, appointed him Exarch and granted him a patriarchal Tomos, assuring him and all his parishes of the continuation of its own traditions with great freedom. We repeat this commitment today: all the parishes from our former exarchate that have remained faithful to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, whether in France or elsewhere in Europe, will be able to maintain their customs and the liturgical and ecclesiological traditions of their heritage.
For almost a century, we have not ceased to accompany and protect the life of our Exarchate. We therefore have a long common history which, although not always without difficulty, has enabled your parishes to bear witness to your fidelity to the Gospel in Western Europe through the protection offered by the Great Church.
As you know, the Holy Synod decided in November 2018 to withdraw the Tomos that had been granted in 1999, for the sake of conformity with the canonical tradition of the Orthodox Church, by deciding the integration and attachment of parishes of Russian tradition to the holy Metropolises of Western Europe under the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The time had come, after long decades of presence in Western Europe and much effort to ensure the unity of Orthodox witness, to live this unity according to the good canonical order of the Church, so that it remains the place of salvation "for all nations" (Matthew 28:19) in accordance with the service of the Church that we pursue everywhere and for everyone. It is the mission and the vocation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to preserve the unity of the Orthodox Church by upholding the ecclesiological criteria according to which the bishop of a location must be the only one in whose name the Holy Eucharist can be celebrated, and the sole person responsible for administrative and pastoral matters in the territory of which he is in charge, in accordance with the recommendation of the holy Apostle “that everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Cor 14:40).
As you know, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has always been committed to serving all Orthodox, regardless of nationality or ethnic origin. You also know how keen we are to maintain the visible unity of the Church. Sometimes we go through trials and we face difficulties, but it is the duty of all to work for this unity to be complete and flawless.
In this desire for cooperation and pastoral work in the service of the Church, the creation of an inter-episcopal committee in 1967, which became thirty years later the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of France, clearly testifies to this will and the need for a common approach that transcends nationalities and cultures in the service of Christ, in whom we are all united. In France, the momentum mentioned earlier has resulted in many gatherings that have also contributed to this unity beyond the tensions arising from our differences. I am thinking in particular of the Fraternité Orthodoxe en Europe Occidentale, of the publication Contacts, but also of youth movements such as Syndesmos or ACER-MJO. Let us also not forget the many Orthodox, clerics and laity, who worked for unity - I am thinking in particular of Olivier Clément whom we remember with the hundredth anniversary of his birth this year - who tirelessly worked to give the ecclesial body an image in conformity with the Lord’s expectations because, as the Apostle reminds us: “There is one Body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all ”(Eph 4:4-6).
It is also our responsibility to make sure that, through our ministry, the various traditions that have taken root in Western Europe over the past century can be assured to freely flourish there, today and in the future. Thus it is that unity and diversity, unlike those who want to oppose them, can and should come together in the harmonious witness of the Orthodox faith.
Once again, I must tell you that we are fully aware of the trials you have gone through and the difficulties you have had to face. I can understand that for some of you this could have caused tensions within communities or even families. But we also know that your faith and your loyalty to Christ will bring the healing of your sorrows and will lead to the reconciliation of all.
When the time came, you chose to entrust yourselves to the gracious conduct of Metropolitan Emmanuel, our beloved brother and concelebrant in the Lord, so that your rich heritage of language, liturgy and practice may prosper, as well as the main spiritual legacy of your Founding Fathers, which is to attest to a living theology and to a conciliarity and a lived collegiality associating clerics and laity. It is up to you to show that the communion of all around the one Eucharist is the tangible sign of the Kingdom. In this way, the land of France, which is dear to us, will continue to contribute to the building of the one Church of Christ. Metropolitan Emmanuel, like his predecessors Metropolitans Meletios and Jeremiah, laboured as a faithful servant of the Ecumenical Throne for this necessary unity, and I thank him again for his service and his work. You will soon have a new Metropolitan who, with the help of the Holy Spirit, will also be able to guide and accompany you in your ecclesial service.
Rest assured, dear brothers and sisters, of our unwavering support, attentive to your needs and ready to meet your expectations. At this time when we prepare to celebrate the holy and great Feast of the Ascension of our Lord, I would like to remind you all of the proclamation of the Church in the kontakion of the Feast: "Having fulfilled the dispensation for our sake, and united earth to heaven, You ascended in glory, O Christ our God, not being parted from those who love You, but remaining with them and crying: I am with you and no one will be against you ”.
We extend to you and all your loved ones our affectionate patriarchal blessing, invoking the mercy of the Heavenly Father so that he may bring down upon all of us his grace and his love.
A video of the address with English subtitles is now available: https://youtu.be/UDEeBKyZuh8