Introductory Remarks by Archdeacon John Chryssavgis

Halki Summit V

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Your All-Holiness,
Your Excellency, the Apostolic Nuncio,
Venerable Hierarchs,
Reverend members of the Focolare Movement,
Honored faculty and students from Sophia University Institute,
Distinguished guests, speakers and participants,

It is a very special privilege for me to welcome all of you on behalf of our spiritual father and ecumenical patriarch to the Fifth Halki Summit, our first gathering after the period of the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic. With the grace of God, we are able to be here in person, to connect with one another and to address vital issues that affect our communities, our churches, and our world. Our esteemed and beloved cosponsor for this summit is the Sophia University Institute. I would be remiss if I did not also mention my own archbishop, His Eminence Elpidophoros, who graciously and generously supported this event.

This particular summit is unique inasmuch as it brings together (at least primarily) Orthodox and Catholics to reflect on the ecological inspiration and initiatives of our respective global religious leaders, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis. Not only are we blessed that these two bishops share a close relationship with one another, but we are also fortunate that they share the same concerns and the same goals for their congregations. Above all, both of them share the conviction that the followers of Christ must be in communion with one another and that they must together face the challenges of our time.

To this end, from the very beginning of Pope Francis’ ministry, when Patriarch Bartholomew attended his installation mass in Rome, they have visited one another in Rome and Constantinople, they have jointly visited places such as Jerusalem (to commemorate the visit to the Holy Land by their predecessors Athenagoras and Paul VI), Lesvos (to bring attention to suffering refugees), and Cairo (to advocate against religious persecution and for religious freedom). In addition, they have issued joint statements on protection of the environment and for peace in the world.

There are many reasons for us to recall and observe this close friendship between our spiritual leaders. In fact, just a few days ago, our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters commemorated the Feast of Pentecost, highlighting the descent of the Holy Spirit that realizes the presence of God in all creation. Moreover, over the next few days, we are celebrating your own name-day, Your All-Holiness, when we will commemorate your patron

Saint, the apostle Bartholomew. They say that green is the color of God’s divine Spirit; and of course green is the title that you have earned with your environmental leadership.

Nevertheless, Your All-Holiness, this summit is not only a manifestation of your fraternal collaboration with Pope Francis. It is also a reflection of the way you have understood how we must address the ecological crisis from the very outset of your own ministry. In raising awareness about climate change, while above all proclaiming the need for us to change our attitudes and actions toward the rest of God’s creation, you have always stressed the importance for our approach to be collaborative, collective, and communal. This is why you emphasize that the environmental initiatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate—its symposia, summits and seminars—must be inter-religious and inter-disciplinary.

Well, this meeting is precisely a tribute to your vision, conviction, and commitment. Just look, Your All-Holiness, at those who are gathered here around you this evening, those who have dedicated their time and love to travel to the Phanar and to Halki  to deliberate on the subject dearest to your heart over the last thirty years and more. They have come from literally every discipline, background and nation (representing the United States of America, Western Europe, Great Britain and the Middle East, as well as Africa, Asia and South America). As speakers and participants, moderators and organizers, they include:

Clergy and laity
Monks and nuns
Men and women
Teachers and students
Authors, editors, and interpreters
Administrators and consultants
Political economists and political scientists 
Business specialists and bioethicists
Theologians and philosophers
Educationalists and ecumenists
Legal scholars and canon lawyers
Ecologists and scientists
Environmental, chemical and industrial engineers
Musicians and composers
Physicists, dentists, and pharmacists
Sociologists and social anthropologists
Policy advisors and landscape architects
Classicists, orientalists, and islamicists
Psychologists and neuropsychologists

This means that, what you have dreamed of and worked for throughout your ministry, is materialized before your eyes. We are all here to learn from what you and your brother Francis have inspired and taught us. And we all are here in common, all here in conversation. Allow me to remind everyone that the English term “conversation” implies “leaning in toward one another” in order to pay close attention, in order to listen carefully. Just as the Greek equivalent for conversation “συζήτησις“ implies that we are together on a search for the same goalto reflect on the ecological inspiration and initiatives of our respective global religious leaders.

Before handing over to my co-chair, I want to underline that it has been a great joy for me and my colleagues (Nicholas Anton and Niki Devaris) to work closely with my dear friend on the organizing committee, Angela Caliaro, representing the family of the Sophia University Institute of the Focolare Movement, which was started almost eighty years ago to support and advance Christian unity. Your All-Holiness, this collaboration is a direct reflection of the close relationship established between your predecessor and mentor, Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, and the founder of the Focolare Movement, Chiara Lubich.  This collaboration and relationship has been reinforced by Your All-Holiness and Maria Voce, former president of the Focolare Movement. And today, you have extended this partnership by meeting for the very first time with the third and most recent president of the Focolare, Margaret Karram, whom we are honored to welcome among our very distinguished guests this evening.

Again, it is a joy and privilege to be together in person to explore our common commitment to the environment and celebrate the name-day of His All Holiness. Thank you for making the trip in these challenging times.

And now, I will turn the program over to my co-chair, Angela, who is well known to all of us from her time here in Turkey, from her work for the Athenagoras–Lubich Chair at Sophia University Institute, and from her many years since her youth with the Focolare Movement.