A WORD OF THANKS
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the book launch of the Korean translation of Encountering the Mystery
Allow us to offer a brief word of thanks to all of you for this enriching and inspiring symposium as well as for this touching and sympathetic book launch.
The modest volume that we wrote is subtitled Understanding Orthodox Christianity Today. This is because we have not attempted to provide a systematic or exhaustive account of Orthodox teaching and tradition, but rather to concentrate on the themes that are closest to our heart and to our ministry. These include ecology and dialogue, freedom and religion, as well as peace and justice. All of these are matters very close to the heart and culture of the Korean people.
The Orthodox Christian faith is founded on spiritual experience, and not simply on philosophy or emotions. In our tradition, preaching and practice are two sides of one and the same coin. This unity of doctrine and life means that the reality of eternal truths lies in the experiential power. This is why, in all that we practice and proclaim in our ministry, we seek to create dialogue, to build bridges, to open doors. We are deeply convinced that this lies at the very core of Orthodox Christianity because the role of religion is to promote encounter, to encourage dialogue, to advance the dignity and freedom of all human beings.
It is helpful to remember that the Greek word for “person” (πρόσωπον) implies relationship; it signifies “facing another person.” To be a human person, then, we must make room for other persons. This means we must care for the natural environment, if we truly care about human life on our planet. We must care for all Christian confessions and faith communities, if we want the witness of religion to be more convincing in our society. We must care for our neighbors, if we want peace to prevail in our world. After all, in God’s creation, there is room for all of us. Let us never forget that both prayer and politics involve relationships; they include caring for all people—especially the marginalized and vulnerable among us.
Permit us to close with a word of encouragement and hope. For, while we face critical and challenging questions in our time, we should nevertheless not despair. God has not and will never abandon His world. As we write in the very last sentence of the book you are launching today, our sincere hope and wholehearted prayer is that a new day will dawn in our societies and nations, one of reconciliation, justice and peace for the sake of our future generations.
Thank you, and may God bless all of you.