Patriarch Bartholomew celebrated the Feast of Saint Nicholas at the church-turned-museum bearing his name in the city of Demre, Turkey. During the liturgy, he gave a sermon that included the following:
"The East is not just the birthplace of great saints but also the cradle of the Church in its present form. Our theology and ecclesiology originated in these sacred lands, within the canonical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It was here that the Ecumenical Synods convened, shaping the ecclesiastical conscience rooted in the ministry of the Lord, transcending national or other distinctions. The wisdom of the Holy Fathers established the pentarchy and its hierarchical order, defining boundaries, principles, and values with profound insight, considering the history and sanctity of each region.
Hence, from Asia Minor, we proclaim in every direction that the genuine and only Mother Church is the Great Church of Constantinople. It exclusively bears the legacy of Jesus’s sacrifice on the Cross for all humanity, giving birth to numerous Churches from Bulgaria to Ukraine. This declaration isn’t a modern invention in ecclesiology but an experiential truth and legacy inherited from the Fathers of the Ecumenical and Local Synods.
It is not just a theoretical assertion but a continuous, blessed act of the Church that bestows upon Constantinople the privilege of the Crucifixion’s sacrifice, the path of sacrifice, and the position as the Head of all Churches. It consistently bears the crown of thorns symbolizing the Despotic Passion.
As the humble successors, by the grace of God, to these traditions, we vow to safeguard this sacred trust. We refuse to relinquish the sacred duty and responsibility entrusted to us.
We do not relinquish the mantle of the Mother of the Great Church, a role passed down to us in blood, and we are committed to passing it on unscathed and unaltered. For 32 years, and into the future, we embrace this task joyously, in service to the Most Holy Theotokos.
We do not step down from the Cross to which the Church of Constantinople has devoted itself. We remain dedicated to our calling, honoring our history and the wisdom of the Fathers.
We’ve learned how to lead all peoples, races, and languages to the Resurrection through the Cross. We are willing to endure crucifixion and unite with Christ until the end of time, for the world’s sake."
Observers of Patriarch Bartholomew have become accustomed to his pronouncements lacking basis in the tradition of the Church, which he repeats at every occasion in order to bolster Constantinople's authority and to convince himself, before anyone else, that he has not deviated from tradition and that what he is doing is in accordance with the conscience of Orthodoxy. So there should be no reason to remind anyone that Constantinople has never been nor shall ever be the "mother of all the churches" and this is a settled historical question, right? And that what he calls the "rooted ecclesiastical conscience" that arose in Asia Minor developed for the most part before the existence of Constantinople. And that the system of the Pentarchy places Rome in the first rank and requires consultation between the churches which constitute the Pentarchy and not the imposition of Constantinople's opinion upon the others.
All the titles found in this sermon, however, turn into secondary issues once Patriarch Bartholomew outdoes himself and crosses every line, declaring that "the genuine and only Mother Church is the Great Church of Constantinople. It exclusively bears the legacy of Jesus’s sacrifice on the Cross for all humanity."
There is no doubt that this theory of exclusivity stems from the theory of Constantinople as "head of the churches" that Patriarch Bartholomew and his partisans have developed in recent years. It means in practice that there is no salvation outside of union with Constantinople.
Perhaps this is the sermon by Patriarch Bartholomew that is the furthest from the spirit of ecumenism, of which the patriarch claims to be one of the strongest supporters. It is also one of his sermons that is the farthest from the true faith. Will such words find anyone to defend them from among the court theologians? Do you think they will develop a theory that salvation takes place through confessing the primacy of Constantinople and the primacy of its head who is without equals?