THE CONFERENCE OF ORTHODOX YOUTH IN CONSTANTINOPLE
Ms. Teele Keskküla from Haädemeeste Transfiguration
parish and Mr. Ergo Laas from Tartu St. Alexander parish
took part as the representatives of the Estonian Orthodox
Church in the Conference of Orthodox Youth at Constantinople
from 18. June until 25. June 2000. The theme of the
conference was "The Youth in the Church on Third
There was promising heat at the airport and very many
Turks; we looked at each other with curiosity. We found
the hosting Orthodox who surprisingly did not found
us in their lists, but added our names quickly and found
us swiftly some hotel rooms. So we were received and
the conference could begin.
The beginning was a little confusing but impressive
- a terrible mess in the conference center of the Hilton
hotel, confusion with name plates, first acquaintance
with the translation technics. Everybody was presented
a paper-case with the sign of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
which contained necessary material concerning the conference
and the town. His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew
made us a summary of the themes that were to be discussed
on the conference. He explained why just such themes
were chosen and how they concern the young Orthodox.
After the opening speech we were all called to reception
in Hilton gardens. The gardens were wonderful, especially
in comparison with the scarce verdure of the town. After
this a magnificent supper was served. The service in
Hilton was good all the week, as were the food, the
hotel and the conference itself That evening we were
so tired, however, of the traveling and the long day
that sleep was the best thing.
Monday morning started with divine liturgy in Holy Trinity
church at Taxim square - a beautiful and dim stone church.
The celebration was in Greek as the majority of the
participants were Greeks from different countries. So
we did not understand the words but got the meaning
and the holy communion. It was a nice beginning for
an Orthodox assembly.
After lunch and a small rest the first session began.
Usually there were three sessions in a day - two different
themes in the morning which were continued in the afternoon;
after the supper the speakers answered the questions
of the listeners and there was a discussion. On Monday
the theme was AIDS and the narcotics, the responsibility
of the society in these fields and the possibilities
of Church and other institutions to solve the problem.
Tuesday was dedicated to language problems. This was
a hot theme for all the Greeks. It missed us, the non-Greeks
somewhat, but at the same time it arose our own thoughts
about the problems in translating the sacred texts into
Estonian. The report that captivated everybody was about
the relations between sexes. There were many new, beautiful
and thought-provoking ideas concerning marriage as a
In the evening we were brought to a boat trip on Bosphorus.
Constantinople is a huge town, wherever you look at
it. And altogether different from the Estonian towns.
The landscape is magnificently hilly and all the houses
have red roofs. We made a lot of photographs which however
where not as nice as the real look. No picture ever
fits the reality.
On Bosphorus we ate the supper in a nice restaurant
and we had the possibility to see how the Greeks dance.
They can all dance, which is rather amazing! When evening
went on, all the six hundred people danced the Greek
file dances - everybody was infected by the dancing
On Wednesday we started off early for Nicaea. There
we visited the local church of Holy Wisdom, a museum
of archaeological findings and many sites of archaeological
excavations. The nature is wonderful there. All liked
the lake of Nicea and were sad to leave it when the
noon rest ended. It is an interesting feeling to walk
in the places where important events of Church history
have taken place - as you were a part of that history.
Thursday was filled with sessions on various themes.
There was a discussion about war and peace and what
the Orthodox Church has done to help people in war areas.
It was a sensitive issue for some of the participants,
as it touched them personally. It was good to hear competent
and constructive answers for questions. A second report
talked about social justice, but it was a bit dry, because
it was read by another person. Then about the ecological
problems and the responsibility of the youth in this
matter. a discussion concerning the youth in the Orthodox
diaspora ended the day.
As the days were long - we began at 8.30 a.m. and the
last session ended in 10. 30 p.m. - we were quite tired.
But the tiredness did not disturb the general merry
atmosphere. It was more important to get new knowledge
On Friday we were offered a score of experiences. We
could make acquaintance with the town. We visited the
hippodrome, Hagia Sophia cathedral, the Blue Mosque
and the Topkapi Palace. Every one of these has its own
history which is worth of hearing and gives the places
their specific significance. The hippodrome impressed
with its age, Hagia Sophia with its unbelievable size
(unfortunately the church looks quite sad nowadays -
its turning into a mosque has not made it look well
and time also has had its influence. The Blue Mosque
was extremely beautiful with a soft carpet and thousands
of fine ornaments on the roof, walls and windows...
On every possible place. Unfortunately we had too little
time to visit the Topkapi Palace and so we could just
run through some most important rooms. We saw, however,
the nice old utensils and gifts to the sultan and we
heard stories about the palace and its inhabitants.
The wonderful view to the gulf and the Asian part of
Constantinople was probably one of the things worth
seeing. Again I understood that no photograph can pass
on the feeling.
During the dinner the St. John Chrysostom Choir from
Thessalonica sang us. Their music was sweet to our ears,
fine, well-performed and captivating. During folk songs
the Greeks again showed their dancing abilities and
I also managed to learn some new dances.
Saturday morning began, as is due, with a liturgy in
the Patriarchate church. As the liturgy lasted long
(for who did not want to communicate!), the audience
of the Patriarch did not take place. Fortunately, it
was possible to meet him once more on Saturday evening,
on the last session. There he made us some presents
- a common photograph and a nice scroll with metal seal.
The Patriarch is popular among young Orthodox and everybody
wanted to be photographed with him. His Holiness did
kindly let everyone to satisfy this vanity.
The evening ended with a pleasant dinner at the swimming
pool of the Hilton hotel. Many young singers and musicians
appeared and again we danced the file dances with live
music. All were in an elated and lovely mood. Everyone
made acquaintances with the ones he had not done before,
addresses and good wishes were exchanged, and it was
promised to meet again soon. I sincerely hope that everyone
of us Will get that possibility sooner or later.
And so it was Sunday. The more fortunate of us could
go to Island Chalki but as our plane was leaving earlier,
we had to be content with a last visit to the town,
making the last photographs and bargaining for souvenirs.
It was a pity to leave, we had begun to like the town,
although it was totally non-European. We could not have
a closer look on so many things that we were sure we
have to come back soon and examine many things more
All the week was fruitful and it is good to know that
you have people of like mind all over the world. Many
new ideas sprang out and the youth get an idea that
such a meeting should be made regular, because this
meeting showed how much we have got to talk about and
On our way back I and Ergo discussed the themes of the
conference and made the conclusion that it is needed
to make more intensive Orthodox youth work in Estonia.
We have got much to win. And we have got to learn a
lot. Anyway, we had some ideas and some fervor. Thanks
for the Patriarchate, our Metropolitan and Church Administration
who made this travel possible.
Youth of the Church in the Third Millennium"
"Blessed be Christ our God, who gathered us from
the ends of the earth in unity and to the communion
of the Holy Spirit"
The Holy in Christ Great Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate
of Constantinople has convened from June 18`" to
25 `h, in the Queen of Cities, the first worldwide conference
of Orthodox youth with the theme: "The youth of
the Church in the Third Millennium." The Conference
was organized in the context of the festive events for
the 2000 year anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ.
We the more than 500 participants have gathered "for
this" on the feast day of Pentecost representing
all jurisdictions of the Ecumenical Throne, the sister
Orthodox Churches, Orthodox Theological Schools and
Academies, other Christian Churches, International Church
oriented organizations, Foundations, and Societies.
1 On the occasion of this Ecumenical Youth Conference,
we exchanged our worries for the most important current
issues that occupy the minds of the youth. Our Conference
took place in the perspective of the Third Millennium,
when we will be called to receive from prior generations
the baton of responsibility for the future course of
2 The Church marches throughout history gathered around
the Holy Altar where "the breaking of the bread"
greets the resurrected Christ, restructures its ethos
and tastes the end beforehand (eschata). The eucharistic
ethos directs the Church how to proceed throughout the
ages and how to manage the grief of the fallen world,
with the final goal always being the salvation of mankind.
It was therefore natural for us to discuss about the
inclination towards the priestly vocation and the monastic
dedication, for as these are the utmost expression of
the visions and demands for those who desire their whole
life to be dedicated to the Love of Christ and to the
service to one's neighbor.
3 We unanimously expressed our voice as for the necessity
to save the whole completely of the essential tenets
of the Orthodox tradition. Simultaneously we asked for
solutions to all the practical issues that the pastoral
care of the church is called to face and deal with,
while it is obligated to be present in the events of
the life of the world in both a dynamic and a metamorphic
way, without giving into temptations of the old which
shows itself as traditional.
4 Our Conference dealt with the problem that arises
from the vocational training of the young and also with
the great and recurring global problem of unemployment,
which plagues the youth more and more. We shared the
joint struggle for our future and promoted what distinguishes
the Orthodox youth, which does not succumb to despair,
because the young people are inspired by the hope in
the providence of God, they rely on prayer and they
feel the presence of their fellow brother in Christ.
Simultaneously, one struggles for the protection of
man's and woman's rights in the workplace, and in turn
for every young male and female.
5 It was also stressed that for the Christian youth,
the profession is not only a means of survival, but
also a training ground of virtue and service to our
neighbors. It was also expressed that new salary jobs
should be created in the church for the young people
who can assist in the pastoral, administrative, and
communal work of the Church.
6 The sensitivity of the youth to the greater social
issues that threaten today's society and especially
the youth, such as AIDS and narcotics was found to be
at the center of our concerns. We stressed with emphasis
the need for educational and moral fortification of
the orthodox youth, from a very young age until they
develop in time spiritual "antibodies" in
order to combat every destructive threat. Thus we formulated
that the loving disposal that should characterize the
pastoral stance of the Church toward the victims of
this tragic wound of mankind should be projected in
"word and deed". This concern and sensitivity
should be driven by the spirit of the Gospel and be
practiced with knowledge and understanding of the sociological,
medical, bioethical, judicial, and psychological parameters
of these problems.
7 The fact that in this Conference of youth participated
young people from different countries where different
languages are spoken, brought to forefront the importance
of the mother tongue for the Greek diaspora. The language
as a unique element of a cultural identity of one people,
entails a valid position in the preservation of it self?identity.
This unique natural element is not necessarily identified
with the essence of Orthodoxy.
8 The youth submitted their anxiety for the difficulty
in understanding the liturgical texts and simultaneously
expressed the reservations for any forced efforts of
linguistic kenotomies that could fade the character
and the deep content of our liturgical heritage. The
preservation of the mother tongue of the Orthodox in
the diaspora should not be underestimated, as it constitutes
a vital element of conservation of their identity and
their relationship with the roots of their cultural
9 Approaching the vital issue of the relationship of
the two sexes, as Orthodox youth we condemned the subtle
undermining and the degradation of the most holy elements
of the interpersonal relations of man in this life,
i.e. love, Eros, and marital commitment. Against the
destructive phenomenon of immorality and the cheapening
of sex to a marketable object of lesser quality, we
pose sturdily the assuredness that physical attraction
find its true dimensions when its natural magnetism
is completed in a loving marriage, where it is elevated
into a great mystery "in Christ and in the Church."
10 As the youth is faces the war and the ever increasing
trend of dehumanization we proclaimed our bitterness
for the continuous and repeated and unkept promises
of the major world powers for peace. The experiences
of unjustifiable wars and the one-sided interdictions
in cases of unjust attacks and hostilities, raised questions
in our conscience about the lack or the existence of
justice. For these reasons we approach the issue of
peace as a whole and worldly query as expressed by the
biblical, fatherly, and liturgical use of the term as
used in the Church.
11 We unreservedly accept the value of the human person
which we place above all demands. Being young we desire
and envision peace as a gift of God and as a fruit of
the Holy Spirit. We deny religious fundamentalism and
the holy wars and present as a solution of the problems
that arise between individuals and peoples, dialogue,
getting to know one another, and the understanding and
respect of their differenciality.
12 Along these lines we proclaimed the desire for peace
among people and also between man and nature. This second
perspective deals with the ecological problem. The Orthodox
trend is not to be solved fragmentally but confronted
in a full dimensionate way. The purification of man
through liturgical life and the growth of original relationship
with the members of the parish entail the assumption
of healthy initiatives which awake the individual and
shape his collective responsibility for the realization
of the problem. On these matters we eagerly adopt with
much energy the initiatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
up to date.
13 The corresponding sensitivity we again expressed
for other social problems, which arise from the exacerbation
of social injustices. As youth we have shown specific
sensitivity for human rights, such as basic freedoms,
the protection of the human being, and its essential
completion in the field of the cultural and social horizons.
14 Specifically, to the theme of the Diaspora, which
is a synthesis of many partial problems, we raise our
voice in praise towards the sister Orthodox Churches
for unity and surpassing their differences. We assure
that we will work for this goal. We also assure that
we will work with brotherly love and sacrifice from
the elevation of the spiritual values, the respect of
life, rejoining the institution of family, the restoration
of honest relationships with the brothers of other Christian
Churches and denominations, the return to the flock
for those who have strayed and the establishment of
a community of faith and love among all of us. We pray
that the Lord of peace will bring to a common meeting
the representatives of the Churches and Nations for
the quelling of the clashes and the advancement of co?
brotherhood and concord.
15 Finally, we the youth who have come from the ends
of the earth, here where the heart of Orthodoxy beats,
conversing amongst us in a spirit of reconciliation
and "in the bond of love" we submit the following
15a We consider it our duty to struggle so that our
destination towards the Third Millennium will make obvious
in every way the unity of our Ecumenical Orthodoxy,
which respects the human person, the uniqueness of local
traditions and the history of each people.
156 In the spirit of its liturgical unity the "One,
Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church" is called
to render clarity to the prophetic charisma, therefore
reminding the people of God that the authentic path
of salvation is through repentance.
15c We express to the Head of Orthodoxy, His All Holiness
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and to the Holy Synod
of the Throne, wholehearted thanks for the decision
to call together this historical Conference. The invitation
and the abundant hospitality which was bestowed upon
us, met our disposition to approach with our sensitivities
of the heart and the spirit, the most important current
events which occupy our minds. The continual presence
among us of His All Holiness, our young hearted Patriarch,
fortifies our desire for new efforts, gentle visions,
and dedication to the faith of our Fathers, and gives
us the candor to request so that the convention of the
Conference of Youth becomes a formal repeated event
like the one we intensely experienced.
We praise God for His abundant and blessed gifts, and
we humbly proclaim with Apostle Paul: "So faith,
hope, love abide, these three but
the greatest of these is love". (1 Cor.13.13).
also the "photo
reporting" on this event