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In An Atmosphere 'Longing For Unity' Ecumenical Patriarchate Celebrates Patronal Feast of St. Andrew

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Dec 1, 2004

Istanbul, TURKEY- "The longing for unity is strongly manifest," said His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of over 250 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, at the conclusion of the Patriarchal Divine Liturgy celebrating the Feast Day of St. Andrew at the Cathedral of St. George in Istanbul on November 30th.

The patronal feast of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the feast of St. Andrew the First-Called Apostle, became more illustrious than ever before because of the joyous and historical occasion of the restoration of the holy relics of Sts. Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom. The relics of these two Great Fathers of the Church were forcibly taken 800 years ago by the Crusaders of the 4th Crusade in 1204 and were returned by Pope John Paul II to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in a historical ceremony last Saturday, November 27 during an ecumenical service held in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.

Early in the morning, His All Holiness and other hierarchs in full vestments descended in procession to the Sacred Patriarchal Cathedral carrying the relics of the two Saints, which had been kept in the Patriarchal Chapel of St. Andrew, and placed them in the center of the Church.

Feelings of jubilation and deep gratitude to God were apparent in the faces of the hundreds of faithful in attendance in this Pan-Orthodox Liturgy concelebrated by many hierarchs representing all the Orthodox Autonomous and Autocephalous Churches.

The official delegation of the Church of Rome, led by Walter Cardinal Kasper, was in attendance as well as many other representatives of other Christian Churches in Constantinople. Eighty members of a pilgrimage to the Mother Church from the United States, under the leadership of Archbishop Demetrios of America, and organized by the Archons of the Order of St. Andrew, were among the hundreds of faithful who filled the historic Cathedral of St. George.

In his address to the congregation Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew spoke extensively about the unity of the faith and the unity of the Churches as "'the goal toward which we must look perseveringly and unwaveringly 'til we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God' (Eph. 4:13). The vision of the single Christian fold and the single shepherd, i.e. of our Lord Jesus Christ himself rather than any mere human being, must not for a single moment be absent from our minds," he said.

As His All Holiness further elaborated on the Lord's Intercessory Prayer "that they may be one as we are" (John 17:11), he said that it implies "a unity whose nature is like that of the unity of the three persons of the Holy Trinity."

Concluding his address the Ecumenical Patriarch expressed the hope that "this doubly illustrious day will mark a new period of more concerted progress toward the unity, that is so much desired by all, by all the Christian Churches and by all people in Christ."

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