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Address of Archbishop Elpidophoros on the Feast Day of Saint Bartholomew

On Thursday, June 11, 2020, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America held celebratory festivities for the feast day of Saint Bartholomew, patron saint of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, offered this moving “doxology of praise and gratitude” for His All-Holiness. His Eminence lists some of His All-Holiness’ extraordinary accomplishments, in nearly 30 years of ministry to God and the Oikoumene, to further the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ, and makes clear why the entire Church and the world at large have benefited so much from the Ecumenical Patriarch’s tireless work. Εἰς Πολλά Ἒτη!


June 11, 2020

Holy Trinity Archdiocesan Cathedral

New York, New York

Beloved Faithful and Co-workers in Christ,

We have gathered today to chant this doxology of praise and gratitude to our Thrice-Holy God.

A doxology of praise, because in this week of Pentecost, we must, as the Lord commands through the Psalmist: ‘open our mouths wide and allow the Lord to fill them.’[1]To fill us with laudations for this present Feast of the Disciple and Apostle Bartholomew, the heavenly patron of our spiritual father and Patriarch.

And a doxology of gratitude, for the life-changing and self-sacrificial Patriarchal Ministry of our father in Christ, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who has given his every breath to the worldwide Orthodox Church for nearly three decades as one of the longest serving Archbishops of Constantinople and New Rome in history. Our hearts overflow with thankfulness and joy at his enduring and fruitful reign.

Nearly twenty-nine years ago, at his Enthronement as Ecumenical Patriarch on the Feast-day of my own Heavenly Patron, His All-Holiness made his powerful and good confession:

“n self-emptiness, we approach at this moment the burning and unconsumed bush of the Ecumenical Patriarchy – by which we are called to see God – in the service of the mystery of unbroken apostolicity, in diakonia and witness to Orthodoxy, and to the edification of Christian unity.”[2]

Thus, our Ecumenical Patriarch announced – from the very first – that his would be a ministry of κένωσις and of vision – θεωρία. For only through sacrificial love can the work of Christ be accomplished.

And in the vision of God in the Burning Bush – which is the very image of the Incarnation and the fullness of the human contribution of the Most Holy Mother of God, His All-Holiness correctly expounds the Holy Mother and Great Church of Christ as the living and ever-burning torch of Faith that enlightens the world through Her ministry.

And what is this ministry that is embodied in the sacred person of our Ecumenical Patriarch? Nothing less than the unbroken and unalloyed tradition of the Apostles, Martyrs, Saints, Righteous, Fathers, Mothers, and all who have served and borne witness to the truth of Orthodoxy throughout the ages! As the God-appointed Successor to the Holy Saints, Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, and Photios the Great on the First Throne of Orthodoxy, His All-Holiness lives in the present moment and in the modern world throughthe divinely inspired and sacred Traditions of the Church.

Our Patriarch exemplifies every flame in the Burning Bush that we know as the Phanar – the lighthouse that ignites the hearts of the faithful and sheds the light of Christ around the globe. Whether it is human rights or religious liberty, ecological justice or interfaith understanding, His All-Holiness brings the timeless wisdom of the Orthodox Faith to contemporary issues and questions.

Within the boundaries of the Church, our Patriarch remains the extraordinary standard of canonical discipline, a true κανόνα πίστεως, the Orthodox rule of the Faith.

This is why he led the Holy and Sacred Synod to the determination to grant autocephaly to the pious Ukrainian People and established the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

This is why he convened – even in the face of disingenuous opposition – the Holy and Great Council in Crete in 2016. This Council, that was over fifty years in the making, took important steps in communicating Orthodoxy outside the Church, and established even greater continuity inside the Church.

This is why he is the first Ecumenical Patriarch to convene in Synaxis the Heads of all the Local Autocephalous Churches, in order to build bridges and create clearer lines of communication throughout world Orthodoxy.

Whether in Albania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, or wherever in the οἰκουμένη His All-Holiness has inspired the Church of Constantinople to further the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ, it has always been to the benefit of those being served. For His All-Holiness Bartholomew takes to heart the words of our Lord Jesus Christ:

“… the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…”[3]

And we could say much, much more. What of his role in interreligious harmony and the Bosphorus Declaration that states that, “a war in the name of religion is a war against religion?”[4]

What of his work in the ecumenical sphere, which Oliver Clément praises thus:

“For Bartholomew, ecumenism is not a luxury but a duty. He likes to call to mind the undivided Church, the spiritual matrix of Europe, where East and West were united and worked together.”[5]

Without hesitation, we can truly say that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has exceeded every expectation that the Church and the world ever had of him on that fateful October Day in 1991, when he was elected the 270th Successor to the Apostle and First-Called Disciple Saint Andrew.

Today, on his patronal feast day, our entire Archdiocese and the Orthodox world wishes His All-Holiness “Many Years,” continued good health, and length of days, so that he may shepherd the flock of Christ and steer the ship of Orthodoxy for many, many more years to come.

Εἰς Πολλά Ἒτη!

[1] Psalm 80:10 (LXX).
[2] Enthronement Address, November 2, 1991.
[3] Matthew 20:28.
[4] Bosphorus Declaration, 1994.
[5] In Speaking the Truth in Love, Theological and Spiritual Exhortations of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, (Fordham University Press, 2011), pp. 9,10.

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