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Remarks and Toast of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Dinner in Honor of the Thirtieth Anniversary of His Enthronement

The Loeb Boat House in Central Park, New York
Direct Archdiocesan District
Hosted by Archbishop Elpidophoros of America

November 2, 2021

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Your Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America,
Προσφιλέστατε Ἀρχιεπίσκοπε κ. Δημήτριε,
Most Reverend Metropolitans and Bishops,
Reverend Clergy,
Honored Guests,
Beloved Children in the Lord,

It is with sincere joy and paternal delight that we share this meal with all of you in this beautiful atmosphere of the Loeb Boat House in Central Park, whose owner, Mr. Dean Poll, as well as the AHEPA Charitable Fund, we especially thank for their generosity to sponsor our anniversary dinner this evening. This Patriarchal Visit has been filled with remarkable experiences, especially today at Ground Zero. To behold the Saint Nicholas National Shrine standing as a shimmering marble Temple, after so many years, has filled our heart with unspeakable gladness.

And to bring the Holy Relic of the Wonderworker of Myra into the Shrine, so that here in the New World – in America – the blessing of his presence may always be with you, brings great spiritual satisfaction to our soul.

In this spirit, we would be remiss if we failed to express our deep gratitude to three remarkable women: to Mrs. Robin Psaros, for her discreet, but substantial and ceaseless support, together with her husband, Archon Michael Psaros, not only in making St Nicholas Church and National Shrine a reality, but also in sustaining and promoting the mission of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; as well as to Mrs. Paulette Poulos, the pillar of Leadership 100, and Mrs. Elaine Allen, treasurer of the Archdiocesan Council, because without their outstanding contribution our Apostolic visit to the United States wouldn’t be possible and successful.

On this day, as you all know, we commemorate the Thirtieth Anniversary of our Enthronement upon the Throne of Saints Andrew the First-Called, Gregory the Theologian, John the Golden-mouth (Chrysostom), and so many other saints and distinguished theologians and ecclesiastical leaders. And in celebrating this milestone, we understand that God has graced us with the longest tenure of any of our predecessors.

Therefore, we were well pleased to know, that we would end this day in your company, enjoying the hospitality of our spiritual son, His Eminence Elpidophoros. And since it is his Nameday, it is meet and right that he offers this banquet of love and of delight. We wish him many, many years upon the Archiepiscopal Throne of America.

This last night of our apostolic visit in America is one of reflection. The thirty years of our Patriarchal tenure have witnessed momentous changes in the world, and particularly in the Orthodox Oikoumene.

Our role as Ecumenical Patriarch has been, and continues to be, the modulating influence that hold the rudder of the Ship of the Church firmly, as She navigates the waters of modernity and secular change.

At the Phanar, we are accustomed to the vagaries of political change, and we have lived in a non-Orthodox, non-Christian world for over five hundred years. But before that, we also fulfilled a history in what the late Sir Steven Runciman called “a noble experiment” – the symphony of Church and State in the Eastern Roman Empire.

What you should all remember is that the memory of the Mother Church is continuous, through century after century. The exigencies of any given decade, or Patriarchy, or political context, in no way deprive the Church of this memory, which extends back to the Apostles themselves.

This is precisely why the connectivity to, and the consciousness of the Mother Church of Constantinople, is so vital to the Holy Archdiocese of America. Cultivate this awareness among the faithful, for it will enrich their experience of their faith and piety!

And this is why our Patriarchy has been so deeply committed to the vision of the worldwide Orthodox Church, not as a federation of independent bodies, but as one Church family united around the Holy Table and the Divine Eucharist.

Therefore, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is pledged to inclusion and not exclusion. And our inclusivity is based on both love and truth: Love for all beings and this planet earth we all call home; and the truth that in Christ we can resolve every difference and every difficulty, as long as we are honest and truthful to God, to each other, and to ourselves.

We who are called to serve the Church in these roles—whether parish Priest or Ecumenical Patriarch – are called to serve with our minds in the heavens, but our feet on the ground. This is one reason why we return to our island of Imvros as often as possible, and walk the paths of our youth and visit the churches and chapels where we first learned to love and worship God. For the good earth grounds us in reality, and reminds us of our interdependence with each other.

At an anniversary such as this, our mind is drawn back to the beginning – to a more carefree time. Whether on Imvros, or in the Schools of Constantinople – the Zografeion Lyceum and Halki, where our education began to ascend. Or our early days in Rome, Bossey-Switzerland and Munich, completing our academic pursuits; but we did not see in the beginning what we now see, with the benefit of all these years of hindsight.

Beloved Children in the Lord: The Church is greater than anything we can imagine. Our Holy God – worshipped in Trinity, calls all people to communion, and to the life in Christ.

We were not placed here to rule anyone other than ourselves. But we are all called to serve everyone. And to serve them humbly, righteously, and always with mercy and compassion.

Therefore, with these reflections, we commend all of you to the mercy and love of God.

May this Archdiocese ever reach higher and higher in every spiritual virtue and grace.

May you always possess peace among yourselves, so that you can manifest to the world how to be peace-makers, in accord with the blessing of our Savior.

So we raise this toast in your honor, congratulating your Archbishop and all the beloved brothers of the Eparchial Synod – whose faithfulness to the Mother Church and dedication to the unity of the Archdiocese give all of us joy. And we congratulate the faithful clergy and laity of this blessed Archdiocese, for all that they give every day, for the work of the Church and the glory of God.

May our almighty and compassionate Lord bless you all with His abiding love and infinite mercy.