On October 22, 1991, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was enthroned in Istanbul. As far as I can tell, his enthronement speech has never been published in English, although a broadcast of the enthronement — available on YouTube — conveniently includes an English voiceover. My research assistant Cassidy Irwin transcribed that voiceover. Here is that transcript.
Venerating the Holy, Consubstantial, Life-giving and Undivided Trinity, obedient to the will of the One Lord as expressed by the Church throughout, through the unanimous canonical ballot of the holy brotherhood and professing the Holy Orthodox Faith, we take up from the hands of the blessed Dimitrios first great among Patriarchs, the Cross of Andrew the First-Called, to continue the ascent to the Place of the Skull, to be co-crucified with the Lord and his co-crucified Church, to perpetuate the light of the resurrection.
Speaking for the first time from the Holy See, we say before all else, along with our predecessor among the saints John Chrysostom, glory to God for all things. Then turning in deep respect and sincere love to the august courage of Hierarchs on the Throne to those here and everywhere in the ecumene, to those who have cast their ballot willingly, we offer wholeheartedly our thanks for the indeed moving vote of confidence which they have placed in our humble person.
Hence we state from the onset that not only shall we follow the canonical order of our Orthodox Church, and respect in particular the venerated tradition and praxis of the great Church of Christ, but moreover being firmly convinced by sacred experience of the indispensable value of conciliarity through which the Holy Spirit speaks to the Church, we shall walk the road of the diakonia of the Church, only under her light within her framework and in her canonical function, in harmony with our most respected brothers and co-celebrants in Christ. Saying this, by no means do we restrict our conviction and attention on this capital subject to those things which only concern our most holy Church of Constantinople, but we extend this sacred confession and declaration also to all that which concerns the Orthodox Church worldwide. On this point we deem it our responsible obligation to state clearly that the Ecumenical Patriarchate shall remain a purely spiritual institution, a symbol of reconciliation and an unarmed force. Exercising the components of our holy orthodox faith, safeguarding, and conducting itself with regard to pan-Orthodox jurisdictions, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is detached from all politics, keeping itself far from the smoky hubris of secular authority. Besides, human power alone, as well as everything else that is human is nothing else but vanity and delusion of power.
We extend our further thanks to the honorable Greek government readily represented on this auspicious occasion by its head, his excellency Konstantinos Mitsotakis, followed by his chosen fellow-workers. From the height of this Patriarchal Throne, we bless the pious Greek Orthodox people, in whose behalf an official parliamentary delegation is here present.
We also reiterate from this position the thanks of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the personal thanks of our humble selves to His Excellency, the President of the United States of America, who desired to send an official delegation of the White House to our enthronement.
Now with all our love and affection, we address our flock here with which at this moment we draw up a testament in the Lord. Unhesitatingly, we state that we shall be a shepherd, ready to sacrifice his soul for his sheep. But we also make the same promise to the entire pleroma of the Holy and Great Church of Christ in Crete and the Dodecanese, in Epirus and Macedonia, in Thrace and the Islands, in the so-called new regions which live aggregately in North and South America, in Australia and Europe, that we shall be vigilant in all things and in no way shall we paternally be negligent in serving them here.
Therefore, to their Eminences the Archbishops and Metropolitans, and their Graces the Bishops who have been entrusted directly with the shepherding of this most beloved worldwide pleroma of the Mother Church, we extend our embrace of love and peace in Christ, and the assurance of our close and fraternal collaboration with them, both for the good of the flock but also in the broader, sacred interest of the Throne. We shall convoke gatherings of the entire venerable Hierarchy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in this See as often as possible, for the mutual exchange of information, support, and common protection.
Particularly, we address from this Ecumenical Throne the reverend and most beloved Fathers of the desert, who excel in asceticism on Mount Athos. We ask of the Fathers exactly that which we request of ourselves, the active practice of the two basic monastic virtues, namely, humility and obedience to the Church in fear of God and in faithfulness to their monastic vows.
Proceeding beyond our immediate canonical jurisdiction we direct our thoughts to the messengers of the Orthodox Churches which are constituted and illuminated by the one spirit of Christ. Their Beatitudes: Parthenios, Pope and Patriarch of the great city of Alexandria; Ignatius, Patriarch of Antioch, the Great City of God; Theodoros, Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem; Alexios, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia; Paul, Patriarch of Belgrade; Theoctistos, Patriarch of Bucharest; Maximos, Patriarch of Sofia; Elias, Catholic Patriarch of all Georgia; Chrysostom, Archbishop of New Justinia and all Cyprus; Seraphim, Archbishop of Athens and all Greece; Wasily, Metropolitan of Warsaw; and their Eminences Anastasios, Metropolitan of Androussa, holding the position of messenger of the Church of Albania; Metropolitan Dorotheos of Prague; and Archbishop John of Finland.
All our most beloved brothers and co-celebrants at the holy altar of the one and undivided Orthodoxy, before them and before the entire church under the heavens, we confess with boldness and exuberance of spirit our holy and spotless Orthodox faith, the living experience of the body of Christ, which has extended throughout the centuries as it emanated from divine revelation, and the Old and New testaments, as it was transmitted to us by the Lord through the Holy Spirit-bearing Apostles, as it was formulated in the definitions of the Holy Seven Ecumenical Councils, by our God-bearing Fathers, and articulated and interpreted by them and the ecclesiastical authors recognized by the church. In short, we confess unreservedly the faith of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic church.
United in this common faith, in the common chalice, and in love which activates faith, we extend our hand of communion to our venerable colleagues, the Primates, and we promise that in collective responsibility with them, we shall witness in the midst of a divided world, desiring unity and reconciliation as perhaps never before in history.
This witness of Orthodoxy is much more necessary and imperative today as divine providence has reserved us to behold the indeed rapid cosmogonic evolutions and changes in the life of the people of the world. Evolutions and changes which bring to contemporary man the hope of a better future, a future of peace, freedom, and respect of human dignity. These rapid rearrangements have taken place and are still taking place mostly in countries and among peoples which are by tradition Orthodox and therefore it is mainly the Orthodox Churches which are more influenced by them. It is therefore natural, particularly for the Orthodox Churches, to be called to vigilance, collaboration, and service so that these developments might indeed result in what will benefit man, who has suffered greatly in our century.
Orthodoxy has much, much more to offer to the world of today. In Orthodoxy one can not only find the correct faith in the true God, but also the correct perception of man as the image of God, of the world, and of creation. We extend the kiss of peace and love to the venerable primates of the Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, and Syrian, in Damascus, and Malabar churches. Their closeness to us in the orthodox faith leads us today to the active quest, with possibly early results, for the common confession of faith and expression in the common chalice. From this sacred courtyard, we also greet his Holiness the Pope of Elder Rome, John Paul II, with whom we are in communion of love. We assure him that a most serious concern for us shall be the realization of the sacred vision of our late predecessors Athenagoras and Dimitrios, so that the way of the Lord will be fulfilled on earth for his holy church, in the reunion of all who believe in him, through the dialogue of truth. We shall do everything in our power to move in this direction. In fear of God, sincerity, honesty, and prudence, we are convinced that our brother in the West will exhaust all the many possibilities at his disposal and cooperate with us towards this sacred and holy objective.
Out of deep esteem, we embrace in the Lord, the venerable Primate of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, and the entire Anglican communion. Manifesting our intention to continue with faithfulness the long tradition of fraternal relations with the Anglican Church, we express our desire to promote our theological dialogue until we achieve the unity of faith.
In the same spirit, we greet and embrace the Old Catholic Church throughout the world in person of its venerable primate, Archbishop Antony, expressing the sincere wish that the dialogue with his church will lead us to the glory of Christ. With feelings of peace and love, we embrace with a kiss of Christ all the other Christian churches and confessions: the Lutherans and the reformed with whom we are also in theological dialogue, the Methodists, with whom we are in the preparatory stages of dialogue; and the Christian communities one and all throughout the world as many as believe to preach, according to the scriptures, the crucified Christ, and bear the good spirit that they may partake of the common banquet of the faith in the unity of apostolic tradition.
From this Sacred See, we extend a most special greeting in Christ to the World Council of Churches, to the President of this Central Committee who is among us, to the General Secretary, his inestimable staff, and to all the member churches. We recognize this Council as an important expression of the ecumenical movement and the schematic function of the ecumenical spirit, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, being one of the founding members of the Council, will not diminish its concern for the good and correct orientation of the Council and that there not be a departure for its first and principal mission, which is the service of Christian unity. This is the position of all the churches in all the East before the World Council of Churches, and our common action of the issues at hand, both in Canberra in Australia, and Geneva has proven.
We shall not be idle in promoting good relations with the major non-Christian religions with the aim of cooperating on the practical level for the safeguard and preservation of the great spiritual and moral values of true civilization, and for the rejection of every negative and catastrophic force to the human person. If necessary, we shall not refuse to dialogue even with those who ignore, reject, and even insult God. Rather we shall transmit to them, indeed to them, the witness of the love of Christ who left the ninety-nine in search of the one, because Christ was crucified also for it. The Great Church of Christ holds from above and from the beginning to be a Church of evangelization, cannot deny herself. She cannot not evangelize and not be continually re-evangelized. And woe to me if I do not proclaim the Gospel.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate must acquire its own means of fostering and projecting Orthodox theology. Within this framework, we shall pursue the acquisition of permission from our state authorities in office for the reopening of the alma mater, the Theological School of Halki, which was compelled to discontinue its operations 20 years ago. Furthermore the publication of an official, ecclesiastical, theological periodical of the Patriarchate, the expounder of its theological thought and unbroken traditions will constitute a major concern and primary interest of our humble person.
Furthermore, it is our intent to reinforce the observance of the special liturgical praxis of the Great Church, the promotion of liturgical life in following the typikon of our Church will be the object of our special concern because this is the center of our Christian existence and life. To publish yearly the calendar of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to reinforce and make good use of the Patriarchal Institutes of Patristic Studies in Thessalonica, the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy, the Patriarchal Monastery of St. Anastasia the Pharmakolytria in Halkidiki, and the Orthodox Academy of Crete, to reinforce and modernize the services of the Patriarchate in order that the workload might be less tiring and more productive.
Brothers, fathers, and children in the Lord, Christ the true patriarch of the entire ecumene, to whom all authority has been given in heaven and on earth, according to the Rudder, calls up the patriarchs in due time and sends them out has organs of His eternal ways as He did with the patriarchs of the Old Testament. Thus, the patriarch according to royal definition is the living and animate icon of Christ, defining truth through deed and words. Paramount to the patriarch is the salvation of the souls entrusted to him, that they remain on the one hand living Christs and on the other be crucified to the world. Characteristic of the patriarch is that he be didactic and untroubled, be ranked equally with all, the mighty and the humble. And if these things concern every patriarch, what can we say about the patriarch of this city, which Simeon of Thessalonica characterizes as the founding city of the faith of Christ, the acropolis of Orthodoxy, the city of cities, with its throne as a most pious divine throne of the great priesthood. This is the reason we entreat, beseech, and supplicate the prayers of all of you who have readily come together on this joyous occasion, that our humble person may be deemed worthy by God as we enter from this moment into the holy of holies being totally consecrated to the Lord, to His altar, to His diakonia, and humanity, to the Cross, and to the Church.
Pray for us, all of you who have come from the West and the North, by sea in the East, in order to install us upon this Sacred See (Cathedra). Pray that faithfully and favorably to God we serve the Lord, this Most Holy Church, and Orthodoxy under the heavens.
Pray that we sustain our people and maintain the privileges and rights of this most venerable throne which we sign with great pleasure at our predecessor to the throne of Chalcedon, affirmed at the 4th Ecumenical Council. Pray that we are at all times a tool of the will of God in the service of all of humanity. Pray that our Patriarchy will be unharmed, bountiful, hopeful, unhindered, according to the names and through the intercessions of the Martyrs from Persia, whom the Church commemorates today. Pray that the Lord will sustain the Church, strengthen the faith, and bring peace to the world.
We are in the firm hope that from the heavenly chambers the prayer of our spiritual father Metropolitan Meliton of blessed memory who offered many precious services to the Mother Church, accompanies, and sustains us. As does the prayer of our immediate predecessor, the most gentle Patriarch, Dimitrios of precious memory, who embodied the extreme humility of Christ, the humility which this Church of the poor of Christ expresses. We are also assured of the prayer of our respected and beloved parents, whom the benevolent God deigned to see this day. Again, and many times over Glory to God for all things. God is love.