Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew cautioned Tuesday the clergy of the Archdiocese of Constantinople that there is a ‘virtual priesthood’ that wants to show off rather than to sacrifice themselves.
On Tuesday, April 17, His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convened for the first time the Synaxis (Conference) of priests and deacons in Turkey at the Balukli Monastery of the Life-Giving Spring.
Paternal advice for clergy
Addressing the participants, the Ecumenical Patriarch pointed to the importance of priestly ministry and offered paternal pieces of advice for a more intense service in today’s world.
‘The priest does not belong to his own self, but to Christ. He owes everything to His grace. He serves Him,’ the Ecumenical Patriarch said recalling the advice and urges received at his personal ordination to the diaconate and priesthood from his spiritual father, Metropolitan Meliton Hatzis.
The Patriarch stressed that ‘the priest is spiritually and bodily consecrated for his mission.’
‘It is truly a great blessing to be clergymen, priests and deacons of the Most High God,’ Patriarch Bartholomew said according to a press release from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
‘We bring the witness of love to every human’
‘We are all bearers of this spirit. Steadfast and untiring, we keep what we have received: the faith, the doxological service of God, and the ecclesiastical ethos, but we also give to the world the good witness of love to every human, because every man is God’s creature in His image, and every human bears an honour because Christ became a Man, died on the cross, and rose from the dead for their sake.’
The Ecumenical Patriarch noted that all clergymen should offer the witness of fraternal love, without any distinction, to any person who needs support and strengthening.
‘This absolute primacy of love has made Christianity the greatest axiological renewal in the history of mankind, something at which the opponents of Christian faith are still astonished.’
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew cited the Encyclical of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church that convened in Crete in 2016 stressing the importance of Church mission and ministry.
There is a virtual priesthood that wants to show off
There is a ‘virtual priesthood’ that wants more to seem than to be, to show off than to sacrifice themselves, to take than to offer. Instead, a true priest ‘does not seek to have his name inserted in the records of history,’ but ‘to be inscribed in the Book of the Kingdom.’
‘This is your mission too, beloved fathers. To be dedicated to your divine work without any barriers or limits, to be ministers of the Gospel of love.’
It takes self-sacrifice and grace
‘It takes humility, self-sacrifice, and proper spiritual state to be the good cleric. You have to have discernment towards yourselves. Do not show what is a self-evident great gift.’
‘What you offer to the believers is the gift of God’s grace. The grace of God always heals that which is infirm and completes that which is lacking. Whatever you do, you must seek the glory of God, the Giver of all good things.’
Criticism of the clergy becomes criticism against the Church
Ending his speech, Patriarch Bartholomew recalled that priests must have an exemplary presence and conduct in their relations with other persons.
‘In the consciousness of most people, the name of the Church is automatically linked to the consecrated clergy. Thus, criticism of the clergy turns into criticism against the Church and, in general, into a weapon of war against our faith.’
Metropolitan Elpidophoros of Bursa, the abbot of the Stavropegic Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Chalki, and professor at the Faculty of Theology in Tessaloniki, gave a speech entitled ‘The Ecumenical Patriarchate, its diaspora and inter-church relations’.
Other speeches were given on the Holy and Great Council, contemporary pastoral challenges, the ecumenical movement, the Sacrament of Confession etc.
Photography courtesy of Nikos Manghinas / Ecumenical Patriarchate