"We have come to Lyons, from Constantinople, the Fanarion, which is the paternal domicile of all of us - our home! And we are conveying the love, the wishes, and the blessing of the Mother Church! We have come here to see your cherished faces, and to rejoice over your diligence...."
These were the words of the Ecumenical Patriarch in his address to the members of the Orthodox Greek community of the French city, which in the distant past used to be a colony of Rhodos islanders.
"We are also certain that, under the watchful pastoral care of your good Shepherd and beloved brother and our co-celebrant, the Most Venerable Metropolitan of France, father Emmanuel, as well as your pious Priests from time to time, you have been fighting to preserve as the apple of your eye the heritage of your fathers - that is, the Orthodox Christian Faith - thanks to the holy Martyrs of Lyons who had sacrificed their life blood (along of course with millions of others all over the world, from antiquity through to our time) on the one hand, and on the other hand, thanks to the great Hellenic cultural tradition, language and civilization, which are - one way or another - embodied in the foundations of contemporary Europe's civilization...."
He then mentioned the presence of other Primates and representatives of local Orthodox Churches, at the splendid commemorative and celebratory Divine Liturgy.
"The presence of the representatives of the other Orthodox Churches in today's Divine Liturgy underlines precisely this truth: That we Orthodox are all one home, one soul, one heart, one mouth - regardless of national descent and linguistic or cultural differences! This, unfortunately, is not the case with all those who confess faith in Christ in general....."
The Primate of Orthodoxy spoke of the fallacy, the schisms, the divisions, which are the ways that the Body of the Church causes grief:
"Since we do not have a common dogmatic teaching and confession with them, we cannot have a common Eucharist and a common Chalice either - which grieves us deeply, but Christ Himself is grieved far more - Who had said that He desired that we all be one, just as He is one, with the Father and the Holy Spirit....."
It is within this framework, as the Ecumenical Patriarch explained, that the Orthodox Church's dialogue with heterodox churches and confessions is taking place, in an attempt to heal the divisions.
"We are obeying the duty of love, by conversing honestly and responsibly with those who are not in the bosom of the Orthodox Church and thereafter letting the Holy Spirit act as He sees fit. It is our duty to not isolate ourselves egotistically within our self-sufficiency, thus putting ourselves at risk - along with those who "possess the truth in unrighteousness" - because the treasure of the Truth, which we have inherited, potentially belongs to everyone and the more who become its communicants, the more will the Body of Christ increase and the greater will our wages be by the Lord!...."
After his reminder that the first throne of the Church of Orthodoxy participates in the Council of European Churches which was established 50 years ago and its 13th Convention is under way since last Thursday in Lyons, Patriarch Bartholomew noted:
"In the multi-faceted crisis of our day: moral, social, environmental, financial and - mainly - spiritual, we Christians do not have any margin for despair! Christ, His Gospel, His Church, are blameless and they are our certain hope! And we should embosom that hope: not only Europeans, but all the peoples of earth! Pray, my brethren and children in Christ, that the Holy Spirit may lead every person towards the light of that hope!...."
On completing his homily, he blessed and prayed one more time for the Orthodox Greek community to continue its splendid course into the future. The Ecumenical Patriarch is in Lyons since Saturday, in order to participate in the events that are taking place within the framework of the 13th Convention of European Churches and the completion of 50 years from the founding of the Council of European Churches. He was received at the airport by the Metropolitan of France Emmanuel and the Archbishop of Lyons, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who in 2004 with the blessing of Pope John-Paul II had travelled to Constantinople for a special reason. In a symbolic, but full of meaning gesture, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, on the 13th of April 2004 - the 800-year anniversary of the first sacking of Constantinople - publicly asked the forgiveness of the Orthodox Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Patriarch Bartholomew for the destruction that was caused to the City by the Crusaders of the 4th Crusade in 1204.
The ceremony took place in the Hall of the Patriarchal Throne at Fanarion, immediately after the special Divine Liturgy, which was officiated with the presence of the Ecumenical Patriarch in the venerable Patriarchal church of Saint George.