The pandemic, the young people, the situation within the Orthodox Churches, the “thorn” of Ukraine, the relations with the Moscow Patriarchate and the 30th anniversary of his election as the Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch are the main topics of the landmark interview with historical extensions given to “Vima tis Kyriakis” by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
The primate of Orthodoxy described the misinformation of COVID-19 as unacceptable towards the victims and the suffering and spoke of the provocative attitude of the clergy against the pandemic, emphasizing that according to the New Testament “he who does not love man cannot love God.”
He stated that he was impressed by doctors and nurses’ self-sacrifice, announced his decision to be vaccinated and called on young people not to be afraid.
Sending clear signals to the Orthodoxy, the Ecumenical Patriarch emphasized in the strongest terms that “there is no schism within Orthodoxy.” In his message to the Patriarchs and the Archbishops, especially to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, he said: “I can’t let the Orthodox ecclesiology change on the altar of lesser interests. I have no right to take a step back. The word of truth is ‘sharper than any knife.’ It is testified by history, the sources, the documents, the facts. It is altered by money, intimidation, propaganda and pipe dreams…”
He said that the accusations of papacy, for which he is blamed, were non-existent, wondering: “Should we call papism the fact that I shoulder the responsibilities of my ministry?” He made it clear that the real purpose behind the attacks on the way Ukrainian autocephaly had been granted was to “remove these unique responsibilities of the throne of Constantinople and transfer them to others.” “I can not deny the responsibilities inherited to me by my predecessors,” he said.
He also spoke of those who “flirt with the federalism of Orthodoxy according to their own standards.” Photographing the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, he asked a clear question: “After all, who behaves like the ‘Pope of Orthodoxy’? The one who remains faithful to its tradition or the one who claims for himself the position he never had and will not have?”
Asked if he would be vaccinated, the Ecumenical Patriarch replied, “I will certainly be vaccinated. Besides, I think I should do so due to old age. I am 81 years old, so I belong to the age groups that need to be vaccinated. But it is not only a matter of necessity or choice but also a responsibility to fellow human beings. That is why I hope that a large part of the world’s population will soon be vaccinated to stop the spread of the deadly virus. However, until then, we must all strictly comply with the protective measures so as not to mourn more victims,” he noted.
Regarding the dangers of transmission during the Divine Liturgy, the Ecumenical Patriarch stressed that our church did not have to deal for the first time in its history with a pandemic and the uncertainty behind it. “At the beginning of the health crisis, we sent a letter to our Orthodox brothers and sisters to find out their thoughts on the issue. Their positions coincided with those of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”
“It is unacceptable with so many victims and so much pain to have people who deny the reality of the pandemic. It is even more provocative when such views are expressed by Christians, often by the clergy, who declare themselves defenders of their god,” stressed Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
The Ecumenical Patriarch was clear about the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine: “There is NO schism in Orthodoxy… I have no right to take a step back.”
He considered that the attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church is a “different view” and the suspension of communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the other Orthodox Churches that have recognized the Ukrainian Autocephaly was a “wrong action.”
Finally, the Ecumenical Patriarch referred to the 30th anniversary of his ministry as Ecumenical Patriarch, concluding: “I hope God deems us worthy to see the reopening of the Halki seminary, which has been unjustly closed since 1971.”