8th General Assembly of the MECC - Cyprus, December 2003 (English)
HOMILY OF HIS BEATITUDE PETROS VII, POPE & PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA & ALL AFRICA TO THE 8th GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE MIDDLE EAST COUNCIL OF CHURCHES
Limassol, December 2, 2003
The unique importance and true worth of the common course in the scope of the Middle East Council of Churches of all the Churches and people participating, is expressed again through the present 8th General Assembly, which with God’s Grace is in progress. We take this opportunity to welcome all the Churches and the people, who through their participation demonstrate their unshakeable desire to co-exist with the other sister Churches, continuing their internal self-knowledge in their external co-operation with other Christians, together with whom they travel, both for the attainment of the visions of ecclesiastical unity and for the understanding of other nations and religions.
The Lord Jesus Christ teaches: “Abide in my love” (John 15:9) and His word is not only direct and clear, but remains exceptionally timely, as long as it is not understood in all its parameters, but only, if it is dynamically interpreted in the light of the uncreated light of the transfiguration, which penetrates the entire Gospel of love according to St John and the God-man person of Jesus, the Incarnate word of God the Father in the Holy Spirit.
“Abide in my love” and the pain of the rupture of the Church will pass and those who worked for the confrontation of the Churches will be silenced, while all who labour for the reunification of the “previously divided” will be illumined and glorified, offering to the Church and to the world the surety that Jesus Christ is the Great Angel of Counsel of the prophets, the Saviour and hope of the world, seen by the Apostles, but also the coming Lord of the future age.
“Abide in my love”, for the inter-Trinitarian life of the common essence of the three Divine persons, of the unborn Father, of the begotten Son and of the proceeding Holy Spirit is not an empty symbolic form of language style, but the source of the invitation to inter-ecclesiastical unity through uncreated divine reality, by preserving the differences of the persons and of the jurisdictions and traditions of churches, which have their being and are dynamically nourished by the inexhaustible gifts of Pentecost. Through the action of the Holy Spirit, we feel no fear of any expressions and manifestations of other religions. Also, intolerance is abolished as is the quest for substitutes for happiness and enjoyment, both on an individual-psychological as well as on a socio-collective level.
“Abide in my love”, for Jesus Christ Himself gave the example and became the beginning of the connection of divine nature with human nature, summoning to love, which He taught practically, and which is not corrupted by the transpiring permutations of human behaviour. On the contrary, He became the “type and form” of love as a way of existence for all people, although the worldly and in all ways venerable entireties (nations, religions, civilizations, languages, etc) have a tendency towards rupturing and mutually catastrophic confrontation. Consequently, the person of Christ is the place and means of meeting for human existence with a common conscience and an absolute feeling that life is not personal joy and engaging pleasure, but a common path of the development of the endogenous powers which exist from God as permanent gifts in human nature, in other words, in every human being.
“Abide in my love”, is, therefore, the beginning of our ecclesiastical life, of our relationship with and our self-determination in relation to “others” both on an institutional level with the sister Churches as also on an interpersonal, even an inter-religious level.
The phenomena of religious fanaticism and fundamentalism, which are taking on universal dimensions and which are poisoning the various relationships, can only be interpreted as an introverted self-determined civilian-faithful, who in this manner ignore, or overlook, the “other”. As Christians, being the adopted children of God, we have the responsibility with every sacrifice and whichever apparent or even temporary loss, to teach the loving way of service to the body of the Church, as also to the children of God who are outside the Church, whom we have been called in God’s name, through the Church, to call to co-operation and continuous dialogue.
For this reason we collaborate within the framework of this present Assembly of Churches of the Middle East. If we maintain that the eyes of all political and religious leaders, as also of the financial agents, researchers and analysts, the philosophers and the nations are turned towards our task, we would not be far from reality. And this, because in the area through which our jurisdiction stretches and our presence and work is mutually covered, not only do all Christian doctrines and faiths co-exist, but the centre of the three great monotheistic religions which have support throughout the world, is also found there. Besides, theoretical quests of a religious content and social, civil and financial pursuits in the whole world which are associated with them, also pass through, or are connected with, our area.
Also, the great advantages, as well as the various problems, are well-known and probably increasing and multiplying in our area, and justly make up the basis of co-operation and the starting point for facing them through the actions of the Middle East Council of Churches. It is not only our various flocks that need aid and assistance, but also the people of every nation, every country, race, language and religion who accept the helping hand which is jointly offered by the families of the Churches of our Council.
Truly, the dramatic trials which the civilians of the areas of activity of the Middle East Council of Churches are called to face, from hunger and immigration to education and disease, gather us around mutual responsibility, as it is shaped by our spiritual heritage and our legacy in the Holy Spirit.
In this sense, perhaps we need to redefine our form of action. For it is essential that we begin from the dynamic of talk, which is underestimated by some who prefer the resumption of specific and direct activity. However, as the Lord first taught and then suffered and then rose, in this way putting the seal on His entire teaching, so are we called to formulate through words of knowledge, the vision, the purpose, the presumptions and the recommendations of the undertaking, the mission and our responsibility.
It is certain that this common and very profitable task will assist in the re-definition of the problems with the essential development of services rendered, and the greatest possible exploitation of human potential. Then, the real problem will be made clearly known, which (apparently) relates to the way problems are handled. The vital question which we must ask ourselves and which has a genuine praxiological (practical) content, is “what” and not “why”. In other words, “what will bring about a solution to the well-known and already-existing problems” and not “why can they not be resolved in the way followed up till now”. We need to jointly ask ourselves, in a climate of mutual credibility and trust, “how can what is happening change”, for it is essential that we change first in order for others to change.
This refraction of Christian “repentance” introduces the true content of the “culture of peace” which we jointly seek and which constitutes an essential proposal for the facts which the 21st century gives us. The liberation of ecclesiastical leaders from the confines of domination with respect to historical continuity and with mutual attempts towards continuously increasing inter-determination, will free us from the internal bonds which provoke violence and terrorism, which incite nationalism and fundamentalism, with results that are well-known in societies, nations and in human existence.
“Abide in my love”, so that we can exist in our areas, as the time of our life is acted out in our jurisdiction, which we will need to pass on to future generations. Let us prepare them, so that they may boast in the Lord that their ancestors not only taught, but also kept the word of Christ, who through His Resurrection showed the true content of Redemption, which is condensed in the phrase “Abide in my love”. Amen.