His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew – The Orthodox Tradition and The Internet9 May 2014
On May 2nd, 2014, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew addressed a speech at The International Youth Forum. Two main ideas, one regarding Constantinople and one regarding the Internet were exposed.
Regarding Constantinople and the Orthodox Tradition
Constantinople, and especially the Ecumenical Patriarchate, is a place and experience of virtue. All Orthodox Christians hope one day to visit this City and Mother Church. They want to become acquainted with its history, splendid monuments, and beauty. However, they do not perceive Constantinople and our Patriarchate as an admirable space that preserves byzantine civilization, a living museum of prominence, which transmits to us the glory of the past. They experience it as the Sacred Center that established doctrine, preserves and proclaims the true faith, and witnesses to the Orthodox ethos, namely virtue. For our Patriarchate and the witness of its teaching through the ages, we could easily repeat the words of St. Gregory the Theologian, who combined theology with poetry: “Virtue is found in the midst of evil, just as a rose is found among the wild thorns.” (Poem 2, PG 37.594)
One of the necessary prerequisites for a constructive ministry in the Church that we serve is surely an intense internal, spiritual and liturgical life. By this we mean “conversing face to face with God.” The spiritual life, which is a journey with the buried and risen Lord, is the mystical source from which every activity must spring, if we want our youth to experience the resurrection and not be held captive to the passions of the world. In brief we emphasize and underline the following: the resurrection is our joy and life, while being held captive to the passions of the world implies pain, suffering, and denial of life.
If byzantine Constantinople constituted an exceptional model of civilization, imbued with the values of the Gospel, it is not because Christians and clergy here built churches like Haghia Sophia, created frescos and mosaics, decorated manuscripts, opened schools, or carved remarkable works and miniatures. Rather, it is because they first sought to control their passions and to be filled by the Holy Spirit, thereby achieving the “kingdom of God” in their hearts and the mystical peace of the resurrection joy, which no technological progress or science can ever offer.
Thus, when we speak of the spiritual tradition, which all of us endeavor to preserve as laborers in the Church, we mean a living, mystical and sacramental remembrance of the lives of the Saints; we mean the happy human being of ancient Maiandros, namely the “great wound” of humanity that was healed by Christ with his resurrection from the dead (cf. the Troparion of Thomas Sunday), thereby rendering humanity truly happy.
It is the paschal and joyful tradition, which young people are called to preserve and continue as the future of our Church and society; it is not a static or fundamentalist, or individualistic tradition, but instead involves the transmission of authentic life in Jesus Christ.
Fanaticism and fundamentalism are concepts foreign to our tradition and the body of the Orthodox Church. Today, unfortunately we witness expressions of such fundamentalist phenomena, both nationalistic and religious throughout the world and especially, more recently in the Middle East, where they have cost many lives and resulted in the displacement of many Christians in regions where the message of Christian salvation was first proclaimed. So we are all obliged, and especially young people, to become aware of these phenomena, as well as to do everything that we can to support our Christian brothers and sisters, who are still under the threat of persecution and terrorism.
About the Internet
Our Church adopts every available means in order to converse with its faithful and convey to them the joyful message of the Gospel. This is why it has traditionally used both the spoken and written word, as well as iconography, architecture, symbols and music.
Our age has revealed yet another means of communication, namely the internet. The internet offers many and diverse possibilities, particularly in the area of social networks, which can also prove advantageous. Of course we need to be very careful and selective as to the way and ethos of these communications, which like all other media conceal many dangers.
The fact that there are many harmful books in circulation does not mean that the Church should refrain from publishing edifying books. At the same time, the fact that social networks are abused by people promoting falsehood and deception in order to mislead young people does not mean that the Church should not use these same networks. On the contrary, the Church must use these networks as widely as possible in order to facilitate young people in search of ways to fulfill their spiritual interests. The time that a spiritual father will dedicate for the sake of communicating with young people through the internet and social media, especially if they are separated by great geographical distance, can prove very useful and effective, so long as he is speaking in a godly way and not promoting his own ideas. The internet also offers the possibility of video-conferencing among young people and youth leaders on a regular basis for an exchange of ideas and without great expense in time and money. On this point we should emphasize that, while the internet offers numerous technological possibilities, including face to face conversation, it should never replace personal communication. Otherwise, young people risk being trapped in a virtual reality and isolated from life’s actual reality.
In all that we have said, we have marginally touched on certain issues, which possibly concern the youth leaders of our Church. There are surely many other issues, which may and should concern you. Indeed, perhaps circumstances are mature enough for the realization of a permanent association among the youth leaders of the holy Metropolises of our Ecumenical Throne, similar to the successful model of the responsible leaders of our Church in the field of pastoral health.
We do not need to tire you any longer. Our allusions and your experience will surely bring to the surface many other interesting matters related to nurturing young people. With these simple thoughts and paternal injunctions, we wish you every success in the proceedings of our forum. May the risen Lord bless you abundantly so that your discussions will prove constructive and contribute to the better coordination of our youth ministry, which our church offers to Orthodox young people of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.