This brief report appeared in English translation yesterday on the Panorthodox Synod website. To what extent can we agree or disagree with the Patriarch’s comments? Is it proper to characterize Orthodox Christianity as “a religion,” or does the Incarnation essentially put an end to religion? Does Orthodoxy share a “common belief in God” with non-Christian faiths? What can it mean that “the Church has the same interests as society?” In the Orthodox Church’s relations with society, other faith communities, and persons of no religious faith, what do love and dialogue require and not require of us?

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople (centre)

Christianity is a religion of love and dialogue, and the Church’s unique contribution to our modern world is precisely its openness to meeting and having dialogue, Patriarch Bartholomew said in a recent interview with the Romanian outlet

“If there is a unique and contributing element of the Orthodox Church for our time and our world, this would be the meeting and the dialogue. This is the spirit we want to convey to you,” the Patriarch said. 

“It is our belief and, at the same time, our hope that Christianity can be viewed as a religion of love and dialogue. The visions of the Gospel are what the Orthodox Church seeks to incarnate and support in the modern world” he continued. 

Dialogue is vital especially in a country like Turkey, where Islam is the dominant faith, the Patriarch said. “When we meet openly and honestly, brother and sister in a conversation, and communication begins with our mutual respect for humanity and our common belief in God, then we are able to break down barriers between religions and nations.” 

And speaking of his election as Ecumenical Patriarch in 1991, Patriarch Bartholomew said he understood and understands his task to be one of creating and safeguarding unity between Orthodox Churches and working towards inter-Christian reconciliation. 

“What we must constantly remember in the Church is that such an inheritance is not a luxury or privilege, but a burden and responsibility, which have little visible or external reward, but only conscious conviction to care we answer, respecting and preserving a tradition and practice of twenty centuries,” the Patriarch said. 

Moreover, the Church has the same interests as society, the prelate of Constantinople said. Many have the mistaken idea that religion has its own interests and concerns and society its own, but this is mistaken, useless, and dangerous, Pat. Bartholomew believes. “Everyone must work together to improve the conditions in our world,” which therefore includes religions working together with society.

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