Toast to His Grace Justin Portal Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

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Phanar, January 13, 2014


Your Grace Archbishop Justin, Beloved Brother in Christ, and Honoured Guest of the Ecumenical Throne:

In the year 1837 the English traveller Robert Curzon visited the Ecumenical Patriarch at the Phanar, and was greatly surprised to find that His All-Holiness had never heard of the Archbishop of Canterbury.  ‘Archbishop of what?,’ said the Patriarch with some scepticism.  ‘Who is he?’

Today, we are happy to affirm, our two Churches are somewhat better acquainted!  You come here, dear Archbishop Justin, not as a stranger but as a friend, as a valued colleague and ally whom with all our heart we welcome most warmly.  We hope that this will be the first of many visits.

In today’s world, all too often dominated by tape-recorders and e-mails, it is vitally important that we Christians should meet each other directly, face to face, person to person.  That great leader in the Roman Catholic Church of the 20th century, Cardinal Suenens, used to say: ‘If we are to unite, we must first love one another; and if we are to love one another, we must first get to know one another.’  This is certainly true.  In our work for Christian reconciliation, let us never underestimate the essential need for serious theological discussion; but at the same time there is an equal need, on the personal level, for ecumenical friendships.  That is why, Your Grace, this present visit on your part is of such great importance.

We are much impressed and at the same time deeply grateful that, despite your busy schedule, as you visit the heads of the world-wide Anglican communion during the first year of your archiepiscopate, you have given priority to this present pilgrimage that you are making to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  This underlines special relationship that has existed for many years between our two Churches, the Anglican and the Orthodox.

Dear Archbishop Justin, may our Saviour Jesus Christ grant you abundant blessings in your pastoral ministry.  May He give you light, strength and spiritual joy.  And, through our mutual efforts, may the bond of Christian co-operation between our two communions grow ever closer in coming years.  In that spirit we are delighted to propose your health.  May God grant to Your Grace many, many years!