Istanbul, January 2013

Welcome by Patriarch Bartholomew


Dear Brother Alois,
Beloved Brothers of the Taizé Community,
Dear Young Pilgrims,

We are honored to celebrate vespers for the feast of Epiphany at the Phanar with you, and we are happy to join you in prayer with Christians in this historic City. Named after its founder St. Constantine, this celebrated place which you are visiting this week was called Constantinople in earlier times, and it is now referred to as Istanbul - the largest city in Turkey and home to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate is the first See of Orthodoxy and for the past 17 centuries, it has maintained a presence in the same city founded by St. Constantine. St. Constantine is important not only to the Orthodox Church, but to all who have ever stood for - and are currently advocating for - freedom of religion. His Edict of Milan in 313 A.D. helped form the foundation for understanding the human rights aspect of allowing people to worship without coercion or fear of retribution. In this anniversary year, we recognize we have been guided by the Edict of Milan for some 1,700 years, and yet we still have much to accomplish in the area of freedom of religious expression.

Your pilgrimage, organised by the Community of Taize after the annual meeting in Rome where we were also invited to address a Message as usually with great pleasure, during the celebration of the feast of Epiphany, is meant to be a pilgrimage of confidence. We need to continually build confidence among our Churches and Christian Communities and to witness together the presence of Christ in the world.

The feast of Epiphany as celebrated in Orthodoxy is about Theophany - God with us, manifested to man, the revelation of God. We turn our hearts and minds toward the shining light as we behold the events of the life of Christ in His revealed human form: His birth, the adoration of the wisemen, and His baptism by St. John in the Jordan. This year’s celebration holds even greater meaning as you share it with us, bearing witness to the love of Christ and the strides you are making toward peace.

What joy it brings to our hearts to welcome you here today! And with each of you, we also welcome the hope for Christian unity you represent. We rejoice in the enthusiasm young people have for Christ and His Church and for their faithful service. Holy Scripture affirms the potential young people have in Christian devotion through the stories of Joseph, Esther, David, John, Mark, and Timothy. As St. Paul observed in his first letter to Timothy, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” [1]

Christ’s prayer in John 17.11, “Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as we are”, leaves us with the expectation that His prayer will one day be reality. In loving our Christian brothers we will begin to fulfill the ecumenical reconciliation desired by Christ.

The lifelong commitments you and others from the Taizé community have made to practice unity give us a living example of how we can hope to fulfill the prayer of Christ in our relationships with other Christian communities. For this, we thank you.

Ecumenical reconciliation is the powerful idea upon which the Taizé community was founded. It is a concept brought to life in the Taizé community by the late Brother Roger, may his memory be eternal. Ecumenical reconciliation in its essence requires complete humility, profound sincerity, and authenticity of spirit to truly listen to one another. These are admirable qualities, and the work you are doing serves to inspire people across generations, and throughout the world.

Brother Alois recently wrote in his “Letter 2012: Towards a New Solidarity” that “Prayer leads us at one and the same time towards God and towards the world. His words remind us that what often seems impossible in the eyes of humanity can be accomplished by Christ in response to our fervent prayers. We see great wisdom in seeking change in the world through prayer.

As we become more acquainted with prayer as an indescribable, mysterious force capable of moving people and institutions to act in different ways, we can walk toward peace in hope. We will one day see that ecumenical reconciliation is going to be fashioned through the Divine - in response to our prayers uttered in harmony with Christ’s prayer.

May each of you walk eternally in the “mercy of God and the community of your brothers, and may God complete in you what he has begun.” [2]

Last updated: 13 January 2013