Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sent a message in every direction on the occasion of the feast of Saint Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra, on Wednesday, December 6, 2023.
The Ecumenical Patriarch presided over the Divine Liturgy in the basilica of St. Nicholas, where the tomb of the Saint was located, in Myra (Demre), Lycia. The Ecumenical Patriarch presided over the service along with Metropolitans Emmanuel of Chalcedon, Apostolos of Derkoi, Arkalochori, Andreas of Kastelli and Viannos and Job of Pisidia, and Bishop Ambrosios of Evdokiada. The local Shepherd, Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Myra, presided over the Orthros (matins).
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said that “what we consider as the East, which is the magnificent work of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, Andrew the First-Called, John the Theologian, is actually the historical way and place of education in the time of the Church.
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. Thus, we stand firm, all of us, in reverent awe before the judgment seat of God!”
Then, speaking in Turkish, the Ecumenical Patriarch referred to the ongoing wars in the Middle East and Ukraine, noting that they deeply affect all humanity.
“Today, we came here, to the Church of St. Nicholas, to pray for peace once again. We prayed for the wars to end as soon as possible, but also for the suffering in both regions of Ukraine and the Middle East. Mothers should no longer cry, children should not be afraid, young people should not die early. We hope that lasting peace will prevail as soon as possible to our neighboring countries, with which we share the same sea, the Mediterranean.”