Interview of His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch
Interview of His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I
to Ortodoksi.net news agency in Phanar on 25th October 2008
World around the Church is changing rapidly. Will this have effect to Church mission work? How do You see new media for example internet in use of the Church?
- The Orthodox Church is centered on the Incarnation of God's Word. This means that "everything good, everything true, everything beautiful, everything noble" (to recall the words of St. Paul) must be embraced and included within the mystery of God's salvation of the world. Indeed, as St. Gregory the Theologian, fourth-century Archbishop of Constantinople and our predecessor on this blessed Throne, once wrote: "What is not assumed (that is to say, within the mission of the Church) is not healed." This means that the Church will, once again in the words of St. Paul, use all means to save even the few, becoming all things to all people. Clearly, then, the Church must speak the Word of God in the language of the people of our age. The message and the mission remain the same: "Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever." But the method and the means change to embrace all people and all creation.
Do You see that Christian values are in danger in Europe? (in contrast of Christian moral values being overrun by some liberal ones.)
- The prince of this world, the way of evil, is always seeking to undermine the message of eternal life and God's love in the Church. It is not simply a matter of "liberal" against "conservative"; these are secular terms for a secular world. The Word of God is the Word of the Cross, which in turn is the Word of life. It is a message that embraces all people (to the least of Christ's brothers and sisters) and all creation (to the last grain of sand). Nothing is excluded from God's love. The Church, however, must find appropriate ways of spreading this "good news" of the Gospel to the whole world.
You have been known as the Green Patriarch. Why are ecological questions important to You?
- Ecological issues are definitely important to us because they are important to God. The ecological crisis is not a political or economical issue; it is a profoundly spiritual issue. Our God created all things "very good," "very beautiful," as the Book of Genesis says. Indeed, our Savior assumed flesh, as the Evangelist of love states (John1:14), thereby sanctifying all human nature and all material creation. As Christians, then, we are maximalists; everything matters to God; everything is included in God's plan of salvation; and everything is called to transformation through God's grace. This is our worldview in the sacraments and especially in the Divine Liturgy, where material creation is raised up to heaven, becoming the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the same worldview that is proclaimed in the icons of our Church, where (as St. John of Damascus claims) we witness and worship the Creator through the creation ‑ that is to say, we see God's face in the very beauty of creation.
Finnish Orthodox Church is unique in the Orthodox world. Is there something that global Orthodox Church could learn from Finnish Church? What challenges there will be for Finnish Orthodox Church in the future?
- The Church of Finland has always proved to be a Church that is open to the challenges of encounter with our contemporary world, a Church that is open to the challenges of dialogue with other confessions. It is also a Church that has remained faithful to its cultural roots, while remaining faithful to the Mother Church of Constantinople. It is our fervent prayer that the Church of Finland will always preserve a balance in these challenges and retain the faithfulness that has characterized it.
Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church has considered using the old calendar. Should Finnish Orthodox Church do the same?
- Your first question raised the issue of an Orthodox Church which remains relevant and responsive to a changing modem world. We have already mentioned the importance of the Orthodox Church transforming the world around it, while not necessarily conforming to the ways of values of this world. There is no doubt that, at least in the Churches that follow the tradition of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the question of the old calendar remains important in certain circles, especially monastic, where the unchanging nature of monastic virtues is concerned. We cannot speak for the Churches of the Slavic world, where the old calendar is retained for more specific, perhaps cultural reasons. Nevertheless, in the world of the so-called "Diaspora", there is good reason for our Churches to be synchronized with the society where they are called to speak and bear witness to the Word of God.