The great responsibility of the Mother Church has no limits, the Patriarch writes.
Constantinople, November 14, 2018
Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has written a letter in commemoration of the 85th anniversary of the Holodomor, a manmade famine in the Soviet Union, published on the site of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.
The Patriarch opens his letter: “As every year, we [communicate] with all of you with a heavy heart from the historic and martyric Mother Church of Constantinople while prayerfully commemorating the Holodomor of the Ukrainian People, the tragic and inhumane events of the years 1932-1933, when countless human beings lost their lives through deliberate and brutal famine.”
And noting that the Church cannot abide injustice, he writes: “Orthodoxy's responsibility is to serve as a positive challenge for contemporary humankind, a God-inspired perspective of life and an expression of authentic freedom.”
Writing that it is in the Church that we are spared from suffering and learn to forgive, he continues: “Our Ecumenical Patriarchate is strong because it has a sacrificial love and acts through humility and the Cross. [Its] story is filled with martyrdom and sacrifice for the world, for all peoples and for all nations.”
And in a comparison to the Savior Himself, he writes: “The Church of Constantinople, as the Mother Church, is the incarnation of the free love of Christ, [W]ho does not crucify but is crucified, [W]ho sacrifices His soul for His friends—for all men.”
In his speech to the hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on September 1, the Patriarch also said that the Ecumenical Patriarchate “incarnates the authentic ecclesiastical ethos of Orthodoxy.”
And comparing his Patriarchate to the pre-eternal existence of Christ, he stated: “In the beginning was the Word … in [H]im was life, and the life was the light of men (John 1.1,4). The beginning of the Orthodox Church is the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” and adding his own play on Scripture, he stated: “In this is life, and the life is the light of the Churches.”
Bishop Ilarion, one of the Patriarchal Exarchs to Kiev, made a similar comparison during a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko last month (during which he also compared Poroshenko to St. Vladimir), saying: “As a good shepherd, the Ecumenical Patriarchate left the 99 sheep and by its decision on October 11, led this one sheep—millions of Orthodox Christians—to unity, realizing its Golgotha-sacrificial mission, which it continues to carry out, contrary to its own interests.”
Aware of how the Patriarchate’s actions in Ukraine appear to the rest of the Church, Pat. Bartholomew further writes: “Therefore, we intervene [in Ukraine—OC] by obligation … not for ourselves and not for demonstrating worldly strength and power.”
Explaining his Church’s decision to enter the ecclesiastical territory of another Church, he writes: “This great responsibility of the Mother Church, the Holy and Great Church of Christ, certainly has no limits.”
Patriarch Bartholomew concludes: “May God grant rest to the souls of all the victims of the Holodomor, and may He grant all of you, dear children, patience in trials, as well as love and forgiveness for one another. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”
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