Patriarch wants solidarity

ISTANBUL – Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios urged the world’s Orthodox churches to minimize differences and seek solidarity as he met with the head of the Armenian Orthodox Church yesterday. Deep divisions are prevalent throughout the Orthodox Church. Although Vartholomaios controls several Greek Orthodox churches around the world, including the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and is considered the spiritual leader of some 250 million Orthodox worldwide, relations with two of the largest churches, in Russia and Greece, remain tense. The Armenian Orthodox Church also operates independently and is not under his jurisdiction. The two spiritual leaders met under heavy security and after a brief religious ceremony in Istanbul. «We must always keep in mind that we aim only for the glory of God,» Vartholomaios said in a speech to Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, in which he touched on the ancient split between the two churches. «He himself taught us this: ‘May they all be one.’ It is a sacred goal.» He praised what he called the ongoing «unofficial theological meetings» between the two churches, saying the dialogue between them began in the 5th century. Armenian Christians pride themselves on being descendants of the first people to adopt Christianity as their official national religion. The Armenian national church was established in AD 301. That predates the Roman Empire’s edict of AD 313 tolerating Christianity, which was previously illegal, and 94 years passed before it became the official religion of Rome and the Orthodox lands of the East. Karekin arrived in Istanbul on Tuesday for a weeklong visit to the Armenian community here and to hold talks with Vartholomaios.

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