This message was written and signed by all the primates after the Christmas Eucharistic Co-celebration in the see of the Phanar and read during the Eucharistic Co-celebration in Nicaea (Iznik) the 26th of December 2000.

1.- Having gathered with divine cooperation and by kind invitation of the Archbishop of the City of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch in his see at the Phanar, and having concelebrated unto to the Lord in this historical sacred Church of the Wisdom of God in the glorious city of Nicaea, where our Fathers were moved by the All-Holy Spirit and formulated the unshakeable doctrines of our Orthodox Faith, the Primates, by God's mercy, of the Most Holy Orthodox Churches throughout the world, address the Orthodox faithful all over the earth, our Christian brothers and sisters in the whole world, and every person of good will, with a blessing from God and an embrace of love and peace. Rejoice in the Lord always, brethren; again we say, rejoice! (Cf. Phil. 4:5)

2.- The festivities on the occasion of the sacred jubilee of the two millennia of Church life are concluded and culminated by our Synaxis (Assembly). Through these festivities, the entire Orthodox Church the world over offered praise and glory to the Triune God, whose boundless love and immeasurable mercy have so deigned that His Son and Word "may dwell among us" (John 1:14) through His incarnation, whereby "we have seen His glory, the glory as of a Father's only Son, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14)

3.- In consideration of this great gift, whereby our Lord emptied Himself and, being humbled, assumed within Himself fallen humanity, for our sake becoming "Emmanuel, God with us" (Matt. 1:24), the Church of Christ, as His body that has been extended through the ages, is conscious of its noble mission and profound responsibility within history. It beholds with a sense of awe its course over the last two thousand years, as well as its impending challenges of the times.

4.- In regards to its historic course thus far, the Most Holy Orthodox Church of Christ, filled with thanksgiving, exclaims the words of that Golden-Mouthed Father of the Church: "Glory be to God for all things". From the first day of its life to this very moment, and even "until the Lord comes" (I Cor. 11:26), the Orthodox Church has lifted His cross and possessed His grace, which "is perfected in weakness" (II Cor. 12:9). Being persecuted by all kinds of enemies, it is victorious; and dying daily, behold it lives! (Cf. II Cor. 6:9). Calling to mind the Lords words that "even the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18) and based on the power of His Resurrection (cf. Phil. 3:10), it is not daunted by those who assault it, no matter how powerful these may be from a worldly perspective. Rather, it agonizes and strives for one thing alone: to transmit and embody faithfully the love of God that was incarnate and revealed in Christ for all people and all times. In this way, the Church and every individual - even the most despised and deserted person in the world - will feel that God is also for their sake "Emmanuel," that it is especially and primarily for their sake that God became human, was crucified and is risen. And it is for their sake that He granted to the world His body, the Church, in order to gather the scattered (cf. John 11:52), to reconcile the separated, and to include in its embrace, as if in the embrace of God Himself, all those who "labour and are heavy laden" (Matt. 11:28), righteous and sinners alike, both poor and wealthy, indeed the whole of creation.

5.- When gathered in the Holy Eucharist, the Church realizes and reveals to the world and to history the incorporation of all in Christ, the transcendence of every discrimination and contrast, a communion of love wherein "there is neither male nor female, neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian or Scythian, slave or free" (Col. 3:11 and Gal. 3:28). In this way, it presents an image of the Kingdom of God, but at the same time also an image of ideal human society, and the foretaste of the victory of life over death, of incorruption over corruption, and love over hatred.

6.- Bearing this Message of unity and reconciliation as a sacred deposit through the centuries, the Church regards its unity as its primary and greatest concern and benefit. It feels deeply grieved and painfully wounded whenever or for whatever reason - although in its nature it always remains undivided - the seamless garment of the Lord is torn apart and its unity is threatened or fragmented. This is why, in casting our minds back over the past two millennia, we express our pain that, while during the first thousand years after Christ His Church experienced a common and undivided tradition, during the next thousand years the Christian world was divided and fragmented lamentably to the great scandal of the whole world and to the impairment of the message of love and reconciliation which the Lord entrusted to us. Without seeking or listing at this time the historical causes of this division, we invite everyone to work in a dialogue of truth and love for the unity of those who believe in Christ. We should not be sparing in pain or labour, but "speak the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15), "without each one looking to their own interests, but to the interests of others" (Phil. 2:4). It is only through dialogue that is sincere and without ulterior motives, based on the common and undivided tradition of the first millennium after Christ, that we are able to construct the unity that is so deeply desired and needed. Thus the proclamation of love and of reconciliation in Christ will be more convincing to the contemporary world. This is what we wish to underline in regard to the overall endeavour for the restoration of unity among all Christians through the so-called "ecumenical movement," in which our Orthodox Church has participated from the outset.

7.- Out of concern then for the unity of all those who believe in Christ, indeed agonizing and striving for such unity, we - the ones entrusted with the leadership of the Most Holy Orthodox Church - in no way ignore the necessity and obligation to care also for the preservation and increase of unity within our own Orthodox Church. We have received this unity from our Fathers as a unity, in the same faith, in a common worship, especially in the Holy Sacraments, and most especially in the Holy Eucharist, as well as in the communion of Saints who bequeathed to us an example in whose footsteps we may follow. Indeed, it is particularly wonderful that, in spite of the variety of languages, races and cultures, this unity pervades the entire body of Orthodoxy, rendering the local Holy Orthodox Churches a single undivided body, namely the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ. We humbly recognize this as a gift of the Holy Spirit, and safeguard it as the apple of our eye.

8.- Those serving in the ministry of ecclesiastical leadership, having been appointed guardians and protectors of this unity, bear a heavy sense of responsibility whenever dangers and divisive tendencies appear in the holy body of Orthodoxy. We have at other previous synaxis (assemblies) such as these strongly condemned schisms that plague the unity of the Most Holy Orthodox Church. Once again we invite all those who for whatever reason have separated from the canonical structure of the Church to return to it. At this present Synaxis (Assembly), we regard it as our duty to remind ourselves and one another that in no way should the historically inherited system of Autocephalous Orthodox Churches provide opportunity or ground for the development of an independence that acts against our unity. For though we are many local Churches, we do not cease to comprise one Church.

9.- This reminder is most especially compelling whenever autocephaly is connected to the national identity and peculiarity of peoples. The diversity of nations and cultures is beneficial and blessed by God. Our Holy Orthodox Church blesses and sanctifies it. Nevertheless, of its very nature the Church cannot constitute a vehicle for the facilitation or propagation of political, nationalistic, or racial interests. The condemnation by the Orthodox Church of the heresy of ethno-phyletism at Constantinople in the year 1872 forever remains of critical importance. Any interference in another canonical jurisdiction through the establishment therein of bishops not belonging to the local Church and its canonical shepherds endangers the unity of the Church and contradicts fundamental principles of Orthodox Ecclesiology.

10.- Every fragmentation of the unity of the Church, on the pretext of preserving customs and traditions or supposedly defending authentic Orthodoxy, is equally unacceptable and must be considered condemnable. As the whole life of the Orthodox Church bears witness, diversity in customs in no way prevents eucharistic communion among Orthodox Churches, while the preservation of the authentic Orthodox Faith is guaranteed through the Synodical system which has always been the ultimate criterion on matters of faith in the Church.

11.- On this significant and historic occasion, we share these thoughts about the unity of the Church with believers in Christ throughout the world, especially with those who bear the name of Orthodox Christians, firmly considering that without unity in faith, worship, sanctity of life, but unity in the Episcopal and canonical structure of the Church, its witness in the contemporary world is in no way feasible.

12.- This unity does not constitute a luxury for the Church, but a constitutive element of its existence and witness in the world. The unity of the Church concerns not only the Church in and of itself, but also the unity of all humankind and the whole world. According to St. Maximus the Confessor, the Church is and depicts and contains in seed all of creation, because it is the body of Christ, "who fills all in all" (Eph. 1:23). Consequently, in caring and striving for the unity of the Church, we have in mind the deeper human search to transcend various divisions, oppositions, conflicts and battles. We also recall the human thirst for peace and cooperation, and the vision of a society where everyone lives in harmony, "bearing with one another in love," in accordance with the Apostolic exhortation (Eph. 4:2). The unity of the Church is offered in this way as a proper example for human unity, a unity that respects particularity among persons and nations, in an age of rapid development of various tendencies and forms of "globalisation".

13.- Thus, we invite all those who believe in Christ to labour tirelessly for the restoration of the shattered unity among Christians, forging dialogues with one another in truth and in love. We urge all those belonging to the Holy Orthodox Church to remain united around their canonical bishops, recalling always the divinely inspired words of St. Ignatius the God-Bearer: "wherever the bishop is, there also is the Church".

14.- Once again, we assure everyone that, as responsible shepherds and leaders of the Church of Christ, we are vigilantly caring for its unity and for the fulfilment of its sacred mission in the world and in history. We attentively listen to humanity's anguish and expectations, as well as its fears as we enter the third millennium after Christ. We shall do everything in our capacity, by gathering regularly in person or through our representatives, to secure and promote the invaluable unity of the Church of Christ. We shall strive to render perceptible and tangible for the entire world the saving reality that, in Christ and through the Church, God is not far from humanity, but rather is everywhere present and near everyone; He is Emmanuel, God with us.

15.- Finally, embracing everyone - both those afar and those nearby - in the love of our Lord and God who was incarnate for the salvation of the world, we pray His grace and mercy be abundantly upon all.

At the Phanar, Christmas 2000

+ Bartholomew of Constantinople
+ Petros of Alexandria
+ Ignatius of Antioch
+ Iakovos of Laodiceia (on behalf of the Holy Church of Jerusalem)
+ Pavle of Belgrade
+ Theoctist of Bucharest
+ Maxim of Sofia
+ Abraham of Siatoura (on behalf of the Holy Church of Georgia)
+ Vasilios of Trimythoun (on behalf of the Holy Church of Cyprus)
+ Christodoulos of Athens
+ Sawa of Warsaw
+ Anastasios of Tirana
+ Nikolai of the Czech Lands and all Slovakia
+ Ambrose of Oulu (on behalf of the Church of Finland)
+ Stephanos of Tallinn

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