The Ecumenical Patriarch



Seven Community of Aidan and Hilda members and one friend  - Anglican, Lutheran, Orthodox and an inter-faith minister- came  from Norway, UK and USA to spend a week in pilgrimage in Istanbul during Advent, culminating in an hour’s audience with his All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, leader of the world’s three hundred million Orthodox Christians.




We prayed near the site of the Council of Chalcedon that the world’s religions would discover their eternal home in the Three Loves in God’s heart. Chalceden is significant: in order for the Muslim world to understand it the Christians must repent that a rhythm of daily prayer became divorced from the people through clericalisation. God brought the Prophet to Muslims to present a rhythm of prayer for all people in the streets. We were moved to see so many men sitting in prayer in the centre of busy streets. In our hearts we welcome Muslims to Chalcedon to be a part of an understanding under one God.




We also visited Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, churches including Taize Prayer at the Dominican Church and crossed the Bosphorus into Asia.




The Ecumenical Patriarch gave us an hour’s heartfelt monastic hospitality. He affirmed our commitment to heal the schisms in Christianity and to heal creation.  Of our Three Values (Simplicity, Purity of motive, and Obedience to God in each person) he responded: ‘This is authentic Christianity!’




He was generous in his monastic welcome, and asked us to meet in his office instead of in the usual throne room.  He gave us: coffee, biscuits, chocolate, crosses, books and pictures, and Penny got a pin! 




He is a monk with huge responsibilities, as his desk indicated! He has a focus on saving the planet, peace and poverty. He told us about his world-wide meetings to further ecumenical, ecological and economic partnership based on love, including a recent meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury to combat trafficking and slavery, and over eight meetings with the pope Francis, and how Francis sends him the coffee he likes!




Each of us was permitted to ask a question.


On the question: ‘What gives you most joy and what touches you the most?’he talked about:


The killings of Coptic Christians in Egypt and of others elsewhere, the plight of young people in the secular west; they have to understand that they don’t have to give up their faith to be modern;


The wars, and the situation in Syria and Yemen.



 He said: 'We don’t have power or money. We have spiritual power and history'.




He did not answer David’s question:  ‘When you and pope Francis. meet; do you talk about including women more?’




He presented us with books and accepted two of our books, New Celtic Monasticism for Everyday People, and High Street Monasteries. He asked Ray to send him any future book he writes.




His personal Secretary, Dimitri, was a wonderfully helpful friend before and after the Sunday Liturgy. He studies Canon Law in Cardiff, and told us the essence of Canon Law is to find the right medicine for different ailments. Penny gave him Ray’s book on The Lindisfarne Gospels which describe the Byzantine influence in these Gospels.




Before we departed we asked the question ‘How does this divine dance continue?’. We seek to listen to God in order to know the answer..




As I prayed in the prayer room at Ataturk airport it came to me that the next such meeting the Community has will not be at the organisational level, it will be in the deep silence of the world’s soul – perhaps with a mystic in a desert or in Jerusalem – who knows?


Posted at 17:14pm on 17th December 2018
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