HOMILY By His All Holiness

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls

28 June 2008



Your Holiness, beloved Brother in Christ,

Dearest faithful in the Lord,

            It is with solemn joy that we stand for vesperal prayer in this splendid and ancient temple of St. Paul "Outside the Walls" in the presence of numerous devout pilgrims from throughout the world on the occasion of the formal and festive opening of the Year of St. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles.

            The radical conversion and apostolic kerygma of Saul of Tarsus literally shook history in its entirety and shaped the very identity of Christianity. This great man profoundly influenced such classical Church Fathers as St. John Chrysostom in the East and St. Augustine of Hippo in the West. Though he never met Jesus of Nazareth, nevertheless St. Paul received the Gospel directly "from the revelation of Jesus Christ." (Gal. 1.11-12)

            This sacred venue "Outside the Walls" is surely most appropriate for the commemoration and celebration of a man who married the Greek language with the Roman mindset of his time, once and for all shedding Christianity of any narrow mentality and forever forging the catholic ground of the ecumenical Church.

May St. Paul's life and letters continue to inspire us, "so that people all over the world may believe in Christ." (Rom. 16.27)

Address by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

to  His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

upon the   Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (28 June 2008)

Your Holiness,

Beloved Brother in Christ,

Pope Benedict,

Glory be to God for all things! For, He has rendered us worthy to share in His bountiful blessings. How can we ever thank Him sufficiently for the divine grace and goodness showered upon us all?

It is with sentiments of sincere joy and earnest thanks that we have just participated in the solemn services on the blessed occasion of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostolic Patrons of the ancient Church of senior Rome. The shedding of their sacred blood has proved to be a blessing for the universal Christian Church throughout the ages.

This joyous celebration also provides occasion for our two Sister Churches to stand together in prayer and celebration in order to seal our commitment for reconciliation and strengthen our bonds of solidarity. For our personal presence here today marks a respectful gesture of genuine gratitude in return for the personal presence of Your Holiness eighteen months ago at the Thronal Feast of St. Andrew, First-Called of the Apostles and elder brother of St. Peter, Founder and Patron of the ancient See of New Rome. Such visits have historically provided crucial exchanges between our two Churches as tangible expressions of greater communication through theological dialogue, performed in prayerful expectation of full sacramental communion in the Body of Christ. Our encounters and exchanges – both here and in Constantinople – follow in historical succession of the mutual visitations by our predecessors of blessed memory: Paul VI and Athenagoras, John Paul II and Dimitrios.

Yet another reason for our heartfelt delight is our presence here, together with faithful pilgrims of the Ecumenical Patriarchate from throughout the world, in order to participate in the formal opening of the Pauline Year, which once again our two respective Churches are celebrating during this anniversary year since the birth of the Apostle to the Gentiles, St. Paul, precisely two millennia ago. The Ecumenical Patriarchate announced this anniversary through an Encyclical Letter to all our Churches last Christmas; and we are planning a truly historical journey and unique scholarly conference this coming October on the occasion of the Synaxis of all Orthodox Primates at the Phanar. Your own celebrations opened recently – in the presence of our official representative – with appropriate festivities in the ancient city of Tarsus, where the former Saul was born to shape, as Paul the Apostle the identity of Christianity and transform the history of Western civilization through his radical conversion and apostolic kerygma. There, in the Churches of Asia Minor, the negligible spark of early Christianity is visible and vibrant to this day as a living testimony to an eternal truth about the Crucified and Risen Lord, as proclaimed by the great Apostle Paul.

Your Holiness, we would like to express our fervent gratitude for the invitation extended to us to share in these solemn festivities. May the great Apostolic Founders and Patrons, Saints Peter and Paul, intercede for us all before the One whom they faithfully served and widely preached. May they continue to inspire us all with the breadth of their ecclesial vision and with the resolve of their apostolic mission.

"For these things and for all things," in the words of our Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, "let us give thanks to the Lord."