November – December 2014
There can be no more fitting manner for us to conclude the celebrations of St. Andrew the First-called of the Apostles and Founder of our magnificent Church of Constantinople, whose commemoration marks the Thronal Feast of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, than a concert of Church music in this splendid ancient Church of Haghia Irene.
We began these celebrations yesterday, in the presence of our brother in Christ, His Holiness Pope Francis, who honored this year’s festivities, with a service of doxology and thanksgiving for the gift of the presence of the Roman Pontiff; we continued with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy; we heard and signed a joint declaration that expressed our common concern for the suffering in our world, particularly in the Middle East and most especially among our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters; and tonight we are closing with a feast of music and song.
It is less than four years ago that, with the desire, inspiration and blessing of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, the Archdiocese Byzantine Choir was born; and already it is performing in Istanbul for the second time beneath the most precious cross in Haghia Irene.
Nonetheless, this event is important also in relation to our efforts toward unity with the Roman Catholic Church. For it is not only through intellectual deliberation and theological dialogue that we can reach agreement on matters of faith; nor again is it through conventional exchanges of official visits that we can come to know one another more closely; rather, we know and confess that true oneness can only be a gift from above, like “every good and perfect thing that comes from the Father of lights.” (James 1.17). Therefore, it is most appropriate for a choir to sing glory to the living God even as we celebrate the historical visit of a Pope, who humility and simplicity have captured people’s hearts throughout the world.
We are delighted this evening to have among us hierarchs and diplomats, as well as faithful and guests, Roman Catholic and Orthodox, as well as Christian and Muslim, from every corner of our planet. We rejoice with all of you and express our paternal gratitude for the honor of your presence and support.
May God bless you all. And may the Lord of holy peace – Ἁγἰα Εἰρἠνη – bring hope and healing to your hearts, your families and the whole world.