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Remarks of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Lunch for Religious Leaders of New York

Headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
New York, NY

November 1, 2021

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Your Eminences,
Your Excellences and Graces,
Dear Rabbis,
Distinguished Religious Leaders,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

It is a privilege and honor to be among you today, not only because you all represent specific faith traditions, but because you also symbolize a sign of hope, peace, and reconciliation in the impressive New York City.

As we stand in your presence among this diverse group of religious leaders, we cannot help but tell ourselves how crucial interfaith dialogue is in today’s world. New York is in many ways an image of the entire planet. Inspired by the presence of the United Nations, the very fabric of this city captures the challenges of a pluralistic society.

But we also enjoy the blessing and opportunity that comes with this mosaic of cultures and religions. It offers a true momentum, kairos, to come together to build peace from dialogue. Despite the horrors of the 20th century or rather, in response to this very dark century, dialogue has become the mark of our modern civilization. Without dialogue, we cannot achieve rapprochement and reconciliation.

As you know so well, this year, we commemorated the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. This city has seen so many victims and tragedies. Twenty years later, all the wounds are still not healed. However, the process of reconstruction, thanks to the spiritual resilience of so many, has transformed this city into an icon of dialogue.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate, faithful to its mission, has always pioneered the exploration of inter-christian and inter-faith dialogue. Along with other Churches and Christian communities, we especially worked in this regard in the aftermath of the Second World War. It is no accident that the creation of the World Council of Churches in 1948 happened in parallel to the establishment of the Unites Nations in 1945 and the issuance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Indeed, world peace can never be dissociated from the spiritual role of faith.

For this reason, the Church of Constantinople, in parallel to its leading participation in the ecumenical movement, also commenced an official dialogue with other faith traditions, especially with the other two Monotheistic religions, Judaism and Islam. Reflecting this spitit of inter-faith encounter and cooperation, the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, convened in Crete in 2016, highlighted that “honest interfaith dialogue contributes to the development of mutual trust and to the promotion of peace and reconciliation” (par. 17). We expect to see Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine, at the World Trade Center, as a beacon of hope and an icon of inter-christian and interfaith encounter and coexistence.

Despite the many challenges of our time, despite the fear of those who content themselves with the clash of civilizations, despite the rise of religious intolerance, fundamentalism, hatred, and anti-Semitism, we should stay firm and promote an ethos of dialogue and solidarity. We try — in faithfulness to our respective faith traditions — to promote the creation of bridges respectful of the beliefs of the others in a spirit of peace and solidarity.

Distinguished guests, dear friends,

In closing, we thank His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America for hosting this lunch. We would also like to express our gratitude to Mr. and Mrs. Theodore and Keryn Mathas, the George and Judy Marcus Foundation, Mr. Angelo Tsakopoulos, ALMA Bank, as well as Mr. Steve Cherpelis, especially for their generous sponsorship of our luncheon today, which gave us all this unique opportunity of fraternal fellowship and inspiring communication. It is our unceasing prayer that this ethos of dialogue and reconciliation continues to be cultivated within all our different faith communities by the contemplation of God’s presence every time and everywhere. We firmly believe that God is in our midst today, as we have come together in a spirit of love and mutual respect.

Thank you for your kind attention.