Exhortation of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the Archdiocesan Council, Philoptochos and Order of Archons [Comments about the Charter]
New York Hilton Hotel
October 29, 2021
Your Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros,
Most Reverend Metropolitans and Bishops,
Beloved Clergy and Laity,
Members of the Archdiocesan Council,
Philoptochos and Archons of the Ecumenical Throne,
We are truly and deeply pleased to greet you this morning with our paternal and Patriarchal blessing. It has been twelve years since we were last in this wonderful country, and with the faithful of this preeminent Eparchy of our Ecumenical Patriarchate.
We want all of you to know that the Mother Church of Constantinople holds you close to her bosom as precious children, and as crucial partners in the mission of the Sacred See of Saint Andrew.
You, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, as an Eparchy of the Great Church of Christ, are preparing to celebrate the Centennial of your establishment. This is a most significant milestone, and an opportunity to take stock of where you have been, where you are now, and the path you have taken to arrive here. On the basis of these considerations, you can envision a future that is filled with the joy and love of the Lord, one that is founded in spiritual growth and maturation.
This – beloved sons and daughters in Christ – is precisely why the Mother Church is allowing for a renewal of the Charter that She grants to you, to instantiate you as a positive and effective ecclesiastical entity. As you all know by now, the application of the former Charter created a sense of fragmentation in the Archdiocese. This, in turn, led to a weakening of the witness of the unified Archdiocese, and to a diminishment of the universal aspects of the Church that derive from the Ecumenical Patriarchate as the Mother Body of the Archdiocese. The whole process, associated with forming the new Charter, is a learning experience that invites all of you to assess your progress as individual communities and as the entire body of the Archdiocese, and to find solutions to the problems of the past.
The most important aspect of any organization is that it allows for the living organism that is comprised of the real men and women who make up the Church to grow, to mature, and to prosper. Our spiritual responsibility is to provide the necessary conditions for this process, and the Charter is a vital component of it.
But the Charter is not everything to the life of the Church. Like a skeleton, it supports the organs and sinews of the Body, but it is not the heart that beats, or the lungs that breathe. These are you, the members of the Body that possess the lifeforce of the Spirit. You are the essential elements that make the Church one in body and soul.
As we reminded you twelve years ago – nearly to the day – of these words of Saint Paul:
“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” [*]
It is in the identifying with one another – sharing suffering and failure, as well as joy and success – that you live out the unity of your Archdiocese and of your Parishes, to which we have all been called by our Lord Jesus Christ. When you can see in yourself your brother or sister, and see yourself in them as well, you begin to understand that second greatest commandment:
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [†]
The Mother Church is never absent from your ecclesial life. Through your Archbishop and Metropolitans; through the worldwide ministry of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which reaches beyond parochial concerns of individual communities to global issues of relationship and responsibility, we are connected to you more deeply than you might perceive.
The Hierarchical nature and structure of the Church is not simply a means of governance. It is a model of inclusion. We not only represent you, but we include you, mystically and liturgically, in our daily activities as Hierarchs. You are part of us and we are part of you. There is identity between us through and in Christ.
Whether your service today is as a member of the Council, or in an advisory capacity, or as Philoptochos, or as an Archon of the Throne, your service is intertwined with every other servant of the Lord. And we, your Bishops, bring you together in the Mystery of the Faith, every time we encircle the Holy Altar in prayer.
You are united by more than accidents of birth and circumstances of life. You are united in the Holy Spirit of God – in the Very Breath of God, that fills your lungs. And by the Very Blood of God, that floods your deepest core – your heart center – with the love of God, and with the love of one another.
Therefore, Beloved Children in the Lord:
We convey to you our warmest congratulations for this Centennial Observance of the Holy Archdiocese of America, and we thank you from the bottom of our heart for sharing with us the thirtieth anniversary of our service on the Patriarchal Throne of Saint Andrew the First-Called Disciple of the Lord.
Our time together brings us much joy, and so we commend you to the Divine Counsel of God, and His infinite mercy. Amen.