Ο Οικουμενικός Πατριάρχης Βαρθολομαίος χοροστάτησε, την Δευτέρα, 5 Δεκεμβρίου 2022, στον Μέγα Εσπερινό για την εορτή του Αγίου Νικολάου, Αρχιεπισκόπου Μύρων της Λυκίας, στον εορτάζοντα ομώνυμο Ιερό Ναό της Βαλέτας, τον οποίο παραχώρησε η ΡΚαθολική Αρχιεπισκοπή Μάλτας στην Πατριαρχική Εξαρχία Μελίτης.
Παρέστησαν συμπροσευχόμενοι ο Σεβ. Αρχιεπίσκοπος Μάλτας Charles Jude Scicluna, με κληρικούς της Αρχιεπισκοπής, ο Αρχιεπίσκοπος Θυατείρων και Μ. Βρετανίας Νικήτας, οι Μητροπολίτες Σάρδεων Ευάγγελος και Κρήνης Κύριλλος, Πατριαρχικός Έξαρχος Μελίτης, η Πρέσβης της Ελλάδος στην Βαλέτα κ. Τασία Αθανασίου, ο Πρύτανης του Πανεπιστημίου της Αθήνας Μελέτιος – Αθανάσιος Δημόπουλος, κληρικοί άλλων χριστιανικών κοινοτήτων της νησιωτικής χώρας, και πλήθος ορθοδόξων πιστών, πολλοί εκ των οποίων Έλληνες και Ουκρανοί που ζουν στην Μάλτα.
Ο Οικουμενικός Πατριάρχης χαιρέτησε τα μέλη της ελληνικής παροικίας, και ακολούθως, μιλώντας στα αγγλικά, απευθύνθηκε στο σύνολο του εκκλησιάσματος. Προηγουμένως τον Πατριάρχη προσφώνησε ο Πατριαρχικός Έξαρχος Μελίτης Μητροπολίτης Κύριλλος.
[Διαβάστε την ομιλία του Πατριάρχου, και την προσφώνηση του Μητροπολίτη Κρήνης εδώ: https://ec-patr.org/response-of-his-all-holiness…/]
Φωτό: Νίκος Παπαχρήστου / Οικουμενικό Πατριαρχείο
Response of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Great Vespers for the Feast of St. Nicholas (Malta, 5 December 2022)
Your Excellency, Archbishop of Malta, Charles Jude Scicluna,
Your Eminence Metropolitan Kyrillos of Krini, Patriarchal Exarch of Malta,
Your Excellencies, Representatives of the civil authorities,
Brothers and sisters in Christ,
We thank the Merciful God, the Founder of the Church, who has enabled us to travel for the first time to this beautiful island, who two thousand years ago was blessed by the arrival of the Holy Apostle Paul, the Apostle of the nations, and to undertake our first pastoral visit since the creation of the Holy Patriarchal Exarchate of Malta in 2021. The reason of this synodal decision was to ensure a better pastoral ministry to the Orthodox faithful living on this blessed island and a more effective common Christian witness. We are glad and thankful to the civil authorities of Malta for having legally acknowledged the existence of our Exarchate and look forward for a harmonious collaboration with them in all spheres where our contribution will be needed and useful.
We are confident that the presence among you of our Patriarchal Exarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Kyrillos of Krini, will be fruitful, since he is a tireless worker in the vineyard of the Lord. First of all, as a world-renowned theologian, he is the author of plethora of books and articles related to Christian doctrine, ecclesiastical history, canon law and theology of religions. As a professor of theology at the University of Athens, he is greatly appreciated and is now serving for a second mandate as president of the department of social theology and religious studies of the Faculty of theology. Presently, he also teaches and serves as rector of our Institute of Post-graduated studies in Orthodox Theology at our Orthodox Center in Chambésy-Geneva, in Switzerland. As an international academic authority, he has been in the past the president of the Society for the Law of Eastern Churches, of which our Modesty has been a founding member, and recently he has been appointed by the Mother Church as the Orthodox Co-Chair of the Joint International Commission on Theological Dialogue between Orthodox Church and Lutheran World Federation and as member of the Synodal commission for the dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church. As you can see, the Holy and Great Church of Christ has given you a recognized and experienced theologian and pastor, and for this reason we are convinced that his witness and pastoral work will be fruitful and God pleasing.
Throughout its whole history, our Ecumenical Patriarchate has been fulfilling the command of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who sent his apostles to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth, by saying: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19). Indeed, the Lord wants “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2, 4). For this reason, the Gospel message has a universal scope, and therefore the Church does not identify herself with any particular nation, but embraces all the peoples of the earth. In this spirit, the Holy and Great Church of Christ fulfils the commandment of her Founder, and for this reason, she has never been limited by any national character. As Elder Metropolitan John of Pergamon rightly emphasized, the Ecumenical Patriarchate “never at all felt into the temptation of nationalism, it always was and still is acting beyond national parameters, in other words, it was and is truly ecumenical”. Throughout the centuries, it has served all Orthodox Christians, regardless of their race, their ethnic origin or their language. The Great Synod in Constantinople of 1872 vehemently condemned religious nationalism and ecclesiastical racism, which is commonly called “ethnophyletism”, by stating: “We renounce, censure and condemn phyletism, that is racial discrimination, ethnic feuds, hatreds and dissensions within the Church of Christ, as contrary to the teaching of the Gospel and the holy canons of our blessed fathers which support the holy Church and the entire Christian world, embellish it and lead it to divine godliness.”
It is with this spirit of ecumenicity and openness that our Patriarchal Exarchate was established here. We are particularly grateful to the local Roman Catholic Church for providing us this magnificent and historical church of Saint Nicholas in Valetta, whose panegyric vespers we celebrate this afternoon. This church will enable us to better serve the pastoral needs of all the Orthodox present in Malta. We take this opportunity to thank wholeheartedly His Excelleny the Archbishop of Malta Charles Jude Sciculuna for his fraternal and generous gesture.
We Christians must practice daily a “dialogue of life”, that is, a practical ecumenism. Already, a century ago, the famous encyclical of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of 1920 “to the Churches of Christ” which rang the bell for the establishment of a fellowship of churches, had proposed to Christians to allow each other the use of chapels and cemeteries, to strive to celebrate major Christian feasts at the same time together, to assist one another in their witness and acts of charity and to confront all tendencies injuring human dignity and Christian values. Indeed, the purpose of the Ecumenical Movement was from its origins to ensure a more effective witness of the Gospel in the world, which requires to be reconciled among ourselves and united so that we can speak with one voice and with one heart.
Unfortunately, we see how the message of the Gospel of Christ can be manipulated to justify war and the use of violence. The disastrous ongoing war in Ukraine between Christian brother peoples deeply saddens us. In response to these unacceptable and tragic events, we shall quote the document on The Mission of the Orthodox Church in Today’s World of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, which was gathered in Crete in 2016, and which stated: “The Church of Christ condemns war in general, recognizing it as the result of the presence of evil and sin in the world” (D1, D3). Seeing the bloodshed unfolding before our eyes, we pray for the rest of the thousands of dead people and for the consolation and salvation of all who suffer from its consequences, calling once again for an immediate ceasefire and for a peaceful resolution of this conflict through sincere dialogue.
Since many centuries, the Holy and Great Church of Christ has always fostered and encouraged a culture of dialogue. Dialogue can only take place in a spirit of respect, responsibility and solidarity. The purpose of dialogue is mutual understanding with the aim of seeking justice and truth. Dialogue involves both parties: it cannot take place if there is no genuine desire to listen to the other. The starting point is the desire to clarify misunderstandings that may have developed over the centuries. Dialogue manifests true Christian love and mercy.
Dear brothers and sisters,
With these thoughts, we look forward to sharing these days with you, praying for the strengthening of the witness of the Gospel on this blessed island. Concluding this short address, we once again express the satisfaction of our Modesty for the development of our Patriarchal Exarchate in Malta and we convey the blessing of the Holy and Great Church of Christ to all of you, encouraging you to witness in words and deeds the Incarnated Truth who redeemed us through the Cross from the “slavery and alienation”, opening through His Resurrection the way to the eternal life in His Heavenly Kingdom. May the Lord of glory bless us and give strength to all of us to continue the good fight as his worthy disciples and giving “an accounting for the hope that is in us” (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15).
Christ is in our midst!
 John Zizioulas, Κόσμου λύτρον, Megara, 2014, p. 278.
Prof. Kyrillos (Katerelos)
Metropolitan of Krini
Patriarchal Exarch of Malta
Welcoming address to His All-Holiness, the Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew II
Church of Saint Nicholas
Monday the 5th of December 2022
Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew,
This is an extraordinary occasion for the local Orthodox Church of Malta. Before you this afternoon the faithful have gathered, religious and laity alike, and in their name, I welcome you to the city of Valletta and to the Church of St. Nicholas.
As faithful children of the Mother Church of Constantinople, your presence fills us with joy. And we are grateful for the Divine benevolence that willed Your All-Holiness to be the first Ecumenical Patriarch to visit Malta—a country proud of its links to the Apostolic Era and of its deep sentiments of faith and hospitality that have always kept it united in a special way to Christianity as a whole.
You have come here in Malta in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to feed the flame of fraternal love that burns in every heart. Just one and a half years ago, in February 2021, the State of Malta was detached from the jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Italy, and under your authorization became an Exarchate with exclusive dependence on the Ecumenical Patriarchate, bearing the name “Holy Patriarchal Exarchate of Melitis (Malta)”.
Shortly thereafter, the Members of the Holy Synod—following your suggestion, permission, and exhortation—elected and appointed me as Patriarchal Exarch of Malta. As a caring father, you gave me your blessings and imparted wise advice upon me. You told me “labor not only to preach the Gospel and build up the Orthodox Church in this country, but also forge a society inspired by the Gospel message of charity, forgiveness and solidarity in the service of the common good, carry on that work of love, build bridges among Christian Confessions, pasture the Orthodox flock of every origin and prepare fresh paths for the Gospel in Malta at the dawn of a new age”.
For me there was nothing more to do but to follow your own pastoral example of ministry, which offers a template for how a person devoted to God can accompany others and to help them understand and live the faith. Your All-Holiness, for us you represent the tangible expression of God’s own loving concern for His Church, for humanity and for the rest of His creation.
For more than 30 years, you have offered your every breath to the worldwide Orthodox Church. As the longest serving Archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome in history, you have stood as an unfaltering guardian of the Orthodox canonical tradition and as an authentic successor of the great line of Holy Patriarchs who acceded to the Ecumenical throne, the first ranking throne of Eastern Christianity. Your All-Holiness, you have been an exemplar of the highest Christian life and Orthodox ethos, being a world religious leader in promoting the principles, doctrines and beliefs of Christian Faith, as well as the timeless ideals and democratic values of dignity, tolerance, respect to human personhood.
As you declared in your enthronement address, “in self-emptiness, I approach at this moment the burning and unconsumed bush of the Ecumenical Patriarchy – through which I am called to see God – in the service of the mystery of unbroken apostolicity, in diakonia and witness to Orthodoxy and to the edification of Christian unity”.
Through your personal efforts and guidance, you upheld this commitment by successfully convening the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church on the island of Crete in 2016. After nearly fifty years of planning and resolute labor, the council came to fruition despite disingenuous opposition by the Patriarchate of Moscow. This historic occasion took important steps for the communication of Orthodoxy outside the Church, and established even greater continuity inside the Church, building bridges and create clearer lines of communication throughout world Orthodoxy.
Its Encyclical proclaimed that “humanity’s serious existential and moral problems and questions of the eternal meaning of its life and of the world cannot be answered without a spiritual approach (par.11)”. Thus, the timely concern of humanity’s struggle for peace and a decent life on a sustainable planet is a sympathetic topic for the Ecumenical Patriarchate. From both cultural and geographical perspectives, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which is situated in Istanbul—is at the crossroads of the world—East, West, South and North. And from this standpoint it acknowledges the need for a deeper appreciation “of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone”.
Your All-Holiness has guided us to Saint Paul’s affirmation: “The love of Christ impels us” (2 Cor 5:14) “we all have to serve man, his freedom and his well-being, and we must work together for the protection of his dignity. It is by this genuine criterion that a civilization’s identity and humanistic content should be primarily assessed, and not by the level of its technological development and prowess”. Especially in our case, across the Mediterranean Sea that “unites” South Europe with the regions of Middle East andNorthern Africa, the ongoing war conflicts has causeda humanitarian catastrophy of significant proportions.
Furthermore, the Joint Message of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the World Day of Prayer for Creation: “We urgently appeal to those in positions of social and economic, as well as political and cultural, responsibility to hear the cry of the earth and to attend to the needs of the marginalized, but above all to respond to the plea of millions and support the consensus of the world for the healing of our wounded creation. We are convinced that there can be no sincere and enduring resolution to the challenge of the ecological crisis and climate change unless the response is concerted and collective, unless the responsibility is shared and accountable, unless we give priority to solidarity and service”.
For these reasons, it is of great importance for the Ecumenical Patriarchate to empower and strengthen ecumenical affiliation with the sister Roman Catholic Church, following the inspired steps of the protagonists of the reconciliation of all Christians, Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras and their dedicated commitment on a fruitful and ongoing dialogue between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople.
Among those who believe that true theological dialogue requires in actions, is a person among us, Your All-Holiness. And the Exarchate of Malta fervently expresses its profound gratitude and sincerest appreciation to His Eminence the Archbishop of Malta Mons. Charles Jude Scicluna for laboring vigorously to establish unbreakable bonds of peace and reconciliation among Orthodox and Catholics in Malta.
Having said that, I would like to greet affectionately His Excellency, my true brother, for offering for pastoral use by the Greek Orthodox congregation, under the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, this historic church of St. Nicholas in Valletta. Your Excellency, you are a true friend who have tirelessly helped us and continue to do so. Thank you so very much and may the Lord repay you! We thank you very much for all that you do for the Orthodox communities in Malta.
Your All Holiness, I have learned from my short presence here that, to gain access to the Maltese people, it is necessary to pass through its great heart. With that in mind, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the local authorities of this country and all those who have worked with dedication, with patience and with skilled competence, for many months to officially recognize the new Exarchate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as a legal entity by the Republic of Malta.
We welcome any kind of collaborations, ideas, anything that at the end of the day can multiply and amplify everyone’s contributions to our Exarchate. I would like to thank every brother and sister whose commitment, volunteerism, and contribution make the Greek School of our Exarchate a successful reality. Working with them towards achieving our mission makes it a very fulfilling experience indeed.
I would like to especially thank Fr. Nathanael Thelesakis and Fr. Nikolas Gongandzer and their coworkers for what they offered to this community.
As it is written in the Gospel of Matthew “Blessed is he who comes, in the name of our Lord” (Matt. 21,9). Your All-Holiness, we are blessed for guiding God’s Orthodox flock in this historic and friendly country. We give you our warmest welcome and we thank you from our hearts for your caring and qualified presence, assistance and encouragement. We thank you very much. May we have your blessing.