TOAST BY HIS ALL-HOLINESS ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW
ON THE FESTIVE RECEPTION ARRANGED IN HIS HONOR BY THE
AMBASSADOR OF GREECE IN ESTONIA, HIS EXCELLENCY MR.
(29 October 2000)
Your Excellency, Ambassador of the Republic of Greece,
Your Eminence Stephanos, Metropolitan of Tallinn and
All Estonia, dear brother in Christ,
Your Eminence John, Archbishop of Karelia and All
Finland, dear brother and concelebrant in Christ.
Your Excellencies, leaders and members of the diplomatic
corps in Estonia,
The initiative to call us around this table full of
experiences and food, which is both a spiritual and
material banquet, comes from the noble heart of the
ambassador of Greece in Estonia. This imitates the
ancient symposia of Plato and the early Christian
"agape". We can here enjoy the deep and
human joy of personal fellowship. We thank you, Your
Excellency, from the depth of our heart for the company
and this excellent banquet, which is spiced by the
rich and exalting experience of your delicate heart,
which fills the hall and touches the sensitive strings
of our souls, so that they answer you with a harmonious
echo in sincere gratitude and fervent prayer.
We came from afar into this Northern country, from
our glorious residence in Phanar, to support spiritually
the Estonian Orthodox Church, which has risen after
its times of trials and being small in the numbers
of members, is big in the number of martyrs. This
Church was recognized as autonomous by the then Patriarch
of Moscow Tychon in 1920. But in July 1923, the Church,
represented by Metropolitan Alexander and his delegation,
asked to be granted autonomy by the authoritative
Ecumenical Patriarchate according to the order. The
Ecumenical Patriarchate proclaimed the autonomy of
the EOC by the patriarchal and synodal tomos of July
1923. In the conditions of autonomy recognized by
all Orthodox Churches, this Church functioned until
1940s, when its autonomy was ended by force and the
Church was united uncanonically to the Moscow Patriarchate.
This was not recognized pan-orthodoxly. In the situation
of that time, the Ecumenical Patriarchate wished that
the Estonian Orthodox should not remain without an
archpastor and as it was impossible to lead the Church
autonomically, the Patriarchate temporarily arrested
the operation of the tomos of autonomy. Lately, it
became possible anew to restore the administrative
autonomy of the EOC and the Ecumenical Patriarchate
reenacted the tomos according to the needs of organizing
and leading of the EOC, to enable its autonomy to
be restored. At the same time, a brotherly agreement
was reached with the Moscow Patriarchate, so that
the existing parishes could freely choose whether
they want to be under the jurisdiction of the autonomous
Church in Estonia or the Moscow Patriarchate. This
has come true in practice.
The further registration and recognition of these
two groups of parishes by the venerable Estonian Government
and the restoring of the nationalized property of
the EOC are matters that belong to the purely administrative
sphere and the Ecumenical Patriarchate has not interfered
in the regulating of these matters.
These facts had to be stated objectively and clearly,
because many inaccurate rumors are heard and confusion
is created. Also, the ancient symposia and "agape"
of the Christians did not occur in silence, but it
was a tune to discuss serious problems.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate took the initiative of
restoring the autonomy of the EOC, hearing the petition
of the people involved and fulfilling its panorthodoxly
recognized service. The same happened, for example,
in the case of the Albanian Orthodox Church, which
was in a like situation of organizational chaos and
in other analogous cases.
Now we have the pleasant moment to greet the reorganizing
of the EOC and the swift beginning of its autonomous
course, which is greatly profited by His Eminence,
Metropolitan Stephanos of Tallinn and All Estonia,
who, sent on this mission, gave up an easier position
in the Church in France. He has used all his gifts
and experiences from Cyprus, Africa, Greece, France
and elsewhere for the new Episcopal service in Estonia.
He has written a lot and his books are translated
into various languages. He himself knows many languages,
he knows the work in the Church, he is humble and
kind, full of virtue and love towards everybody, he
has ecumenical experience, he knows all the world
and he is not unfamiliar with the modern problems
even in technical matters, he serves successfully
the autonomous EOC and loves all Estonian Orthodox
and all Estonians not regarding their confessions.
Let us raise the glasses to drink for his health and
divine help, so that his work can be successful for
the benefit of all Estonians.
After that, let us wish the same to His Excellency,
the host at the banquet who gave us so kindly and
lavishly the possibility to be together in one spirit
on this most beautiful feast and to all the guests.
Be strong and healthy everyone, dear friends, by the
grace of the beneficent God.