His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
Interreligious round table
Salt Lake City, July 20, 2021
Your Excellency, Dear Monsignor Solís,
Dear Ms. Zeynep Kariparduc,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for your warm welcome. I feel truly blessed to be with you today and to be in this wonderful city of Salt Lake City for the first time. As I stand in your presence among this diverse group of religious leaders, I cannot help but wonder how important a type of gathering like this is in today’s world. Looking at each of you here, a simple but powerful quote comes to mind: “Truth does not fear dialogue”. We owe this sentence to His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
The word ‘dialogue’, διάλογος, which is so commonly used to define an exceptionally diverse range of realities, resonates strongly as we gather tonight. Dialogue, in the orthodox sense of the word, is essentially and primordially a dialogue between God and humanity, a revelation which takes place literally “through the Logos”, “through the Word”. As John the Theologian says in the prologue to his gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into existence through him, and without him nothing came into existence. What was born in him was life and life was the light of all men. (John 1:1-4).
As you may know, in the Christian tradition, dialogue has its roots in the life of the divine Trinity itself, revealed to us by the Incarnation of the Logos, the Word, Jesus Christ. In this sense, dialogue becomes the key by which we are called to resolve our divisions, to heal hatred, to foster resilience, to fight against prejudice and bigotry, to promote peace and reconciliation, and finally, to discover the ultimate vocation of our community of humanity: to love God and to love our fellow human beings.
Despite the horrors of the 20th century, our understanding of dialogue has become an increasingly central instrument for reconciliation. This movement towards reconciliation in our world is evidenced by Christian engagement in ecumenical dialogue. The Ecumenical Patriarchate in particular has to some extent proved to be a pioneer alongside other Churches and Christian communities in creating a truly multilateral institution for the promotion of Christian unity. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the need for a global Christian organization became a reality with the creation of the World Council of Churches in 1948, based on two crucial principles: genuine dialogue on theological questions and an acceptance of the need for common social action.
The engagement of the Orthodox Church in ecumenical dialogue has also depended on the willingness of other churches to build bridges and not walls. In this respect, a radical and positive turning point was taken at the Second Vatican Council, when the Catholic Church decided on the fundamental necessity of a rapprochement between Christians, and in particular with the Orthodox Church. One of the most important events to emerge from this decision was, without a doubt, the meeting in Jerusalem of Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in January 1964. A year later, in a very prophetic gesture, the same two world leaders decided in common – as a visible sign of their desire to restore the bond of Eucharistic communion that had been lost for centuries – to simultaneously lift the anathemas of 1054, laying the foundations of the bridge that we continue to design and build in the present age and beyond. Their dialogue of charity became a dialogue of truth with the creation of an official theological dialogue between the two sister Churches in 1979. Since then, the many bonds and ecumenical ties that bring Christians together have not failed to bear witness to our common desire to a renewed unity in communion. I am convinced that this desire is shared by His Holiness Pope Francis and His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, as they have repeatedly manifested in statements and past meetings.
But dialogue is also important between religious traditions. In the Encyclical of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church convened in 2016, we read that “Honest interreligious dialogue contributes to the development of mutual trust and to the promotion of peace and reconciliation. The Church strives to make “peace from above” more tangible on earth. True peace is not obtained by force of arms, but only by love which “does not seek its own” (1 Cor 13,5). The oil of faith should be used to soothe and heal the wounds of others, not to kindle new fires of hatred. (para. 17)
Interreligious dialogue is above all about human dignity, peace and coexistence. For the Orthodox Church, interreligious dialogue is rooted in the exposure of Orthodoxy itself to religiously pluralistic environments. The interreligious experience between communities, past and present, is powerfully linked to the coexistence of the Church with religious actors and communities of diverse sensitivities and traditions, because it is lived by all in our daily lives. This is true for all of us today. However, we have seen very strong reactions against interreligious dialogue. The rise of religious extremism is a phenomenon that cuts across all religious traditions with commonalities such as self-isolation and insularity clinging to specific traditions and masquerading as authentic. Extremism and radicalization seek to privatize truth by promoting a philosophy of mutual exclusivity. On the contrary, we try — in fidelity to our respective religious traditions — to promote the creation of bridges that respect the beliefs of others. A recent document entitled, For the life of the world. Towards a Social Ethics of the Orthodox Church, reminds us that “The Orthodox Church approaches interreligious dialogue with full recognition of the real differences between traditions, but nevertheless firmly insists on the real possibility of peaceful coexistence and cooperation between different faiths. . Above all, he seeks to overcome ignorance, hostility and fear with mutual understanding and the peace of true friendship. (par.59) Likewise, we are called here tonight and beyond tonight to act on these affirmations and come closer to living in harmony with one another.
Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
Allow me to thank you once again for your very warm welcome. I pray wholeheartedly that you continue to cultivate an ethic of dialogue and reconciliation by seeing and acknowledging the presence of God everywhere, a presence that shines everywhere, and especially when we come together in a spirit of love and respect. .