The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew presided over the Divine Liturgy held yesterday, Tuesday, February 6, 2024, in remembrance of St. Photios, Patriarch of Constantinople and founder of the Holy Trinity Monastery of Halki, in its Katholikon.
The Archpriests Elder Metropolitan Apostolos of Derkoi, president of the Ephorate of the Monastery, Elder Metropolitan Demetrios of Princes’ Islands, Nektarios of Athidon, Commissioner of the Holy Sepulchre in Constantinople, Maximos of Selyvria, and Andreas of Saranta Ekklisies, members of the Ephorate of the Monastery, as well as Bishop Smaragdos of Daphnia, clergy and monks, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the Julie Eadeh, Consul General of the United States of America in Constantinople.
Also in attendance were Sabino Chialà, Abbot of the RC Catholic Monastery of Bose, with members of his Brotherhood, Professors Christoph Markschies, President of the Academy of Sciences and Humanities Berlin-Brandenburg, formerly the Prussian Academy, and Gerald Haug, President of the Leopold German National Academy of Sciences
The Ecumenical Patriarch, in his speech immediately afterwards in the Ceremonial Hall of the Theological School, recalled that it functioned from 1844 to 1971, giving to the Great Church, but also to universal Orthodoxy and the Christian world, more than 900 graduates, who served as Bishops, clergymen and professors, “who served with faith, love, and hope, with unswerving fidelity to the tradition of the Church and with sensitivity for man, for his earthly and heavenly destiny”.
“The Theological School of Halki,” the Patriarch stressed, “has been the ‘theological laboratory’ and ‘think tank’ of the Phanar, providing the most competent staff.” He continued,
“Its faculty have been called upon to give opinions on ecclesiastical matters, to prepare draft texts and recommendations for the Throne on canonical and liturgical matters, as well as on inter-Orthodox and inter-Christian relations.” All the teachers and students of Halki seminary knew that the holy mission of the Church is not promoted by inward-looking piety and theology, which is indifferent to the world or rejects it, to preserve intact the purity of the Orthodox faith, which is supposedly threatened by developments. Closed spirituality is the monophysical denial of the universality of the Christian Gospel, which always produces fundamentalism.
This spirit of openness has been preserved and cultivated during the last five decades in Halki. The closed School has functioned as a center of study, a venue for conferences and international meetings, a variety of cultural events, and other initiatives, as a modern “Academy”. More generally, it is true that without this spirit of dialogue, which is embodied and expressed in practice and ecumenically by Christ’s Holy Great Church, the presence and course of Orthodoxy in the contemporary world would be quite different.
At another point in his speech, the Patriarch referred extensively to the celebrated and honored Great Photios, noting, among other things, that “he combined in his person Greek education with the Orthodoxy of faith. With his multidimensional presence and actions in the field of politics and culture, in literature, and the ecclesiastical and spiritual spheres, he had a decisive influence on the historical course of Byzantium, on the rebirth and flourishing of Greek literature, and on the building of the identity of Orthodoxy. As he said, “Saint Photios was first and foremost a profound theologian, for whom his literary and philosophical training and his ancient Greek heritage served as a valuable tool for the promotion of theology as the ‘highest education’. Its contribution to letters is rooted in all that preceded it as the meeting of Hellenism and Christianity and gave rise to ‘Christianized Hellenism’, which is an integral part of the history of world culture”.
The Ecumenical Patriarch emphasized,
“The great Patriarch was a charismatic theologian. He was a fierce and unyielding defender of Orthodoxy. He theologically abolished the “filioque”, emphasized the mission, strengthened the institution of the Pentarchy, fought to safeguard the rights of the Ecumenical Throne, and substantially contributed to the formation of Orthodox ecclesiology. Photius refers to the holy and ecumenical seven councils as “teachers and promoters of piety”. God blessed his struggles and his works, the culmination moment of which was the Great Synod of 879/80 in Constantinople, a model of ecclesiological completeness and synodal work. Because of the pan-Christian celebration, in 2025, of the 1700th anniversary of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, Photios claims a special place as the authentic representative and spokesman of the ecclesiological identity and synodal work of the Church.
The feast of the Holy Photios has always been and remains a day of remembrance. The devotional experiences, the joyfulness of austere and ascetic daily life, the blessing of discipleship and study, our wise teachers, and the common visions for the ministry of the Church and its witness in the modern world come to our memory and emerge from our hearts. And Photios the Great projects himself in our eyes as a model of a dynamic ecclesiastical man, an acute theologian, and fighter of Orthodoxy, who prays to the Lord of glory with all of us for the sensible outcome of the efforts for the reopening of the Trophus School, so that the Great Church may once again obtain what it has been deprived of for almost 53 years, its theological limbo.
Concluding his speech, the Ecumenical Patriarch expressed his joy at the start of the reconstruction and upgrading works of the building complex of the Theological School.
“We praise and glorify the God of love, the giver to the Church and the Nation of the Most Honorable Lord Exarch of the Holy Great Church of Christ, Athanasios Martinos, who willingly and graciously undertook the great expense of this great project. We express to Athanasios Martinos and his honorable wife once again the praise of the Mother Church. May the God of mercy grant them every blessing.”
He thanked the President and the members of the Ephorate of the Holy Trinity Monastery of Halki, as well as its Abbot, “for their unfailing concern and their valuable contribution to this great foundation of the Mother Church.”
Finally, the Ecumenical Patriarch welcomed, in English, the Consul General of the United States of America in Constantinople, and in Italian, the Abbot of the Monastery of Bose and the members of his Brotherhood.
Earlier, the Ecumenical Patriarch was addressed by Bishop Cassianos of Araviso, Abbot of the Monastery, who, among other things, also referred to the ongoing renovation work in the imposing building of the historic Theological School.
Photo: Nikos Papachristou / Translated by Ioanna Georgakopoulou