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The responsibilities of Orthodoxy in 2011

His Eminence Seraphim Kykkotis Metropolitan of Zimbabwe and Angola

The dawn of the new year is an opportunity for us all to publicly express our speculations on the pastoral responsibilities of Orthodoxy for the best possible approach to the complex political and social problems of our time which threaten the peaceful co-existence of people or at least its contribution towards it and essentially to the sensitization of the global community for a social solidarity for the protection of Human Rights, where these are violated and trampled on and naturally for the fertile moral pressure on our politicians and government leaders for the protection of God's divine Creation, our Planet.

The words of General de Gaulle "that Politics is too serious a matter to be left only to Politicians" applies also to our confused times. The voice of the Orthodox Primates headed by our Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios is a living hope for the overcoming of the impasses which threaten the peaceful survival of humanity. This was apparent in the Christmas messages.

As much as we may be surrounded by pessimistic messages regarding the future of political developments on a local and international level, the hope of Orthodoxy that we will live in a better, more peaceful world comprises also the other dimension which expresses the view of Orthodoxy that God also exists and he regulates some things differently from the way people who live far from faith in God reckon on.

Throughout history for two thousand years, fundamentally the service of Orthodoxy was always its pastoral responsibility to lead people, especially the Members of the Church to salvation in Christ. Never though did its salvific orientation to the Kingdom of Heaven keep it away from the daily complex social problems of humanity. Besides, the way to the Kingdom of Heaven is opened to man when he works towards the erasing of social injustices and the trampling of human rights, when he participates dynamically in the prevalence of social justice and the peaceful coexistence of nations. All those that our Church honours as Saints and Martyrs did this. This is what Orthodoxy is called to do today with the dawn of a new year.

Already, through the historic initiative taken by our Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios to hold the well-known Meeting of Orthodox Primates at the Phanar in October 2008, it defined the guidelines of the presence of Orthodoxy in the contemporary world. As we know, the basic guidelines are the following:

  1. The promotion and completion of the preparation for the Great Synod of the Orthodox Church.
  2. The implementation of the 1993 agreement on the issue of the Orthodox Diaspora
  3. The strengthening of Theological powers at the ongoing dialogues with the non-Orthodox.
  4. The declaration of the intense Orthodox interest in the protection of the natural environment.
  5. The constitution of an Orthodox Council to study the issues of Bioethics.
Most of the above-named goals are within the framework of the realization of the visions of the Orthodox Primates, especially those of our Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios, for a productive presence of the Orthodox Church in a contemporary world.

Already the work of the Inter-Orthodox Council of Geneva has started promisingly with the first regional meetings of Orthodox Bishops under the Chairmanship of the local Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for better coordination of Orthodoxy in the contemporary world and the local communities which are active, as the local Orthodox Church gives a powerful and united presence and contribution to society.

The way to the solution of the problem of the Diaspora has already been set on its way and the next meeting of the Inter-Orthodox Council in Geneva in February of this year will be of great importance towards this goal so that we can progress to the canonical ecclesiastical approach to the issue of autocephaly.

Our Ecumenical Patriarchate’s coordinating role in the contemporary world is now a reality which assists us all, especially the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches, to unite the voices of more than 300 million Orthodox faithful today in order that they may play a serious role in local and international society, protecting principles and values regarding respect for human rights, democratic principles and the sensitization of citizens to the protection of the Environment.

The failures of the global summit conferences on the Environment in Copenhagen and Cantou are an invitation to us all to work as Orthodox Christians for the success of the Summit Conference which will take place this year in Durban, South Africa.

The Inter-Church and Inter-Faith Dialogues which aim to strengthen the unity of the body of Humanity, even though there are many who I incite against and oppose them, are progressing albeit with slow steps, steadily on the path towards reconciliation and peaceful dealings, so that no crime and social injustices will be performed in the name of religion; rather it will be a common responsibility that human life, as a gift from God, will be protected in every way possible.

The absence of Orthodoxy from Inter-Faith Dialogue does not contribute towards dealing with fanaticism which is mostly linked to the issue of terrorism which threatens innocent people throughout the length and breadth of our Planet.

Where we perhaps are slow to act is on the issue of the beginning of the deliberations of the Inter-Orthodox Council on Bioethics issues. The collaboration of the Ecclesiastical Leadership with the Political, Scientific and Academic worlds is now a one-way street for us to be able to cope with the impasses in which humanity finds itself in order to survive.

The optimistic dreams of our Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios for the convocation of the Future Great Pan-Orthodox Synod will help us all to view the presence of Orthodoxy in dealing with the complex social problems of our time in a productive and creative manner.

It is wrong for us to be pessimistically influenced by the local social and financial or national problems of a local community or of a country and leave pessimistic messages regarding also the presence of Orthodoxy in the contemporary world. Even during its greatest persecutions either by the idolatrous Roman Emperors or by other combatants, Orthodoxy never ceased to be optimistic, with the hope that better days would dawn for us all.

It is this message of optimism that Orthodoxy is called on today too, to give to the contemporary world, so that we can keep the hope of survival alive. Our greatest sin is to be indifferent to social injustices which can be going on against our fellow humans, even if they live far away from us. The Global Community is at the same time a small village, one of our neighbourhoods which, if we show indifference, the problems of “others and strangers” will become ours too.

The contribution of Orthodoxy to this end must be continuous, discreet, conciliatory, productive, connective, peaceful and prayerful.

And, in order not to speak of others, we can mention the examples of our Prime Minister Mr. George Papandreou and the President of Cyprus, Mr. Christofias who, having the mandate of the people, await the productive contribution and support of Ecclesiastical Leaders towards this end.

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Created: 11 January 2011
Updated: 2 August 2014