From the site maintained by the Conference of Bishops of France (www.cef.fr
): 1204 - 2004 : 800 years later
On the occasion of the tragic anniversary of the sack of Constantinople, April 13, 1204, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon, and Mgr. Gerard Daucourt, Bishop of Nanterre and member of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the Unity of Christians, met on Tuesday, April 13, with Patriarch Bartholomew I.
"Noting the approach of the sad anniversary of the Sack of Constantinople, which took place on the Holy Day of Easter/Pascha, April 13, 1204, I wished to spend this day in the company of Patriarch Bartholomew I. He courteously welcomed this wish, and invited me, along with Monsignor Gerard Daucourt, Bishop of Nanterre and member of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the Unity of Christians.
"Eight centuries after the tragic events that profoundly wounded relations between Christians of the East and West, we were able, by the mercy and pardoning grace of the Lord, acting in the Church, to live this day in brotherly love.
"This morning, we attended the Divine Liturgy celebrated by the Ecumenical Patriarch, and afterwards, we entered into conversation. The sense of common membership in God’s family, and of our brotherhood in Christ, which confers “a single spirit,” allows us today, in spite of such grave offenses, to regard and love each other as brothers.
"This afternoon, we went to pray at the tombs of the Ecumenical Patriarchs, in particular, that of Patriarch Athenagoras I, who, with Pope Paul VI, opened with ferver this road of reconciliation at the time of the Second Vatican Council.
"We express our great gratitude to Patriarch Bartholomew I and to his close collaborators in the Church of Constantinople for this day, lived in interior silence and in affectionate and fraternal proximity to each other. With them, we offer thanks to God, and we proclaim the Risen Christ.
Philippe, Cardinal Barbarin
Archbishop of Lyon
Istanbul, April 13, 2004 ADDRESS BY HIS HOLINESS
ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW
ON THE OCCASION OF THE VISIT BY
HIS EMINENCE CARDINAL PHILIPPE BARBARIN
ARCHBISHOP OF LYON AND PRIMATE OF GAULE
Phanar, April13, 2004
Your Eminence, Your Excellency:
The grace of God has brought us together today in the Great Church of Christ to exchange, as tradition would have it, the paschal kiss, and to testify, once again, our common faith in the Resurrection of Christ. Celebrating the foundation of our faith (I Cor. 15: 17) in this period of festivity and joy, our Church sings, in effect, “This is the day of Resurrection: Let us be illumined by the Feast. Let us embrace one another. Let us call brothers even those who hate us. Let us forgive all, because of the Resurrection, and let us sing: Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.”
The spirit of reconciliation in the Resurrected One, which emanates from the Paschalia, thus incites us to labor with urgency for the reconciliation of our Churches, which bear the marks of the complicated history of a long and painful tearing apart. He inspires us to deploy all our efforts to repair the torn mantle of the Body of Christ and, thus, to be obedient to the priestly prayer of our Lord and Savior: “That they may be one, as we are one” (Jn. 17: 11).
Now, the unity of our Churches manifested itself in the past by fraternal ties woven from the first centuries of Christianity. We may take the example of Saint Irenaeus, the disciple of Saint Polycarp of Smyrna, Irenaeus who came from Asia Minor to establish himself in Gaul to tend the Church in Lyon. This historical fact encourages us to renew these ties, and we see in your arrival a sincere will to bring them to fruition. It is for us a great joy to receive you, your Eminence, as Primate of the Gauls and successor to Saint Irenaeus of Lyon. You are accompanied today by Mgr. Gerard Daucourt, Bishop of Nanterre, long a friend of our Patriarchate, who has long worked in Rome in the Pontifical Council for the Unity of Christians, of which he is still a collaborator, and who is president of the Council for Cultural Collaboration.
Welcoming you in the Great Church of Christ on this Tuesday of Bright Week, we feel it important to emphasize your cordial gesture, which is marked by the spirit of reconciliation. For, though illumined today by the feast of Resurrection, you wished to share with us the pain and sufferings of the eight-hundredth anniversary of the tragic taking of Constantinople by the Crusaders, on April 13th, 1204. This event, which willl remain forever etched into the memory of the Byzantine people, aggravated the splitting of the mantle of the Body of Christ, which we are now attempting, with much effort, to sew back together, and inaugurated among the Orthodox a climate of distrust and suspicion toward the Catholic Church.
To be sure, we must admit that the 4th Crusade was an historical phenomenon of great complexity, upon which converge interests and concerns simultaneously religious, political and commercial. To such noble sentiments as the hope of liberating Christian lands occupied by the “Infidels” was added a tragical event of the history of Christianity which would for centuries oppose the East and West: the taking of Constantinople by the Crusaders and the founding of the Latin Empire.
Over the course of the following centuries, the Orthodox Churches held themselves for the most part on the defensive, whereas the Catholic Church deployed much effort to bring the “schismatic easterners” into union with Rome. One of the principle forms this effort took was uniatism, which has always been severely judged by the Orthodox.
But, the spirit of reconciliation is stronger than hate. Since the Vatican II Council, the Church of Rome recognizes that the path of union does not pass by way of uniatism, and seeks to recognize in the Orthodox Church a “Sister Church.” Illumined by the Resurrection, Patriarch Athenagoras of blessed memory, our predecessor on the ecumenical throne, was eager to recognize in Pope Paul VI his brother, and to exchange with him, in 1964, the kiss of peace. This cordial gesture, which remains today a memorable event, not only lifted the anathemas formerly promulgated between our Churches in 1054, but also re-sealed our two Churches, separated since the tragical event of 1204, in the spirit of reconciliation. To this gesture, we may now add yours, which is marked by the same spirit.
Beloved brothers in Christ! Illumined by the feast of Pascha, and filled with the spirit of reconciliation, we must all the same learn a lesson from history. The eight-hundredth anniversary of the taking of Constantinople by the Crusaders must lead us carefully to measure each action we undertake today.
Asking you to labor and offer witness within your own Church, we welcome with gratitude and respect your cordial gesture so that the tragic events of the 4th Crusade need no longer be a stumbling block between our Churches, and not serve as a model for other, even more perilous actions. France has always been a pioneer in collaborating and forging relationships between our two sister Churches, and the presence of our Church, which labors by means of the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops as well as the Saint Sergius Institute, owes much to the support and fraternal welcome of the local Catholic Church. We hope that this same climate may continue to illumine the Christians of your country in this common march toward unity.
Illumined by the Resurrection of Christ, let us as brothers labor together for reconciliation. In this sense, we pray to the Resurrected Lord to heal the wounds of the Church, which is His Body. As for us, let us embrace each other in the joy of the Resurrection. Western Europe and Eastern Europe—the two lungs of Christianity, to take up the expression of Pope John Paul II—must stop looking upon each other as strangers. The Europe of tomorrow must find inspiration in the Christian empire of the first centuries, and St. Irenaeus of Lyon gives us a good example of this. Let us attempt to bear a common witness of Christianity in this Europe which is constructing itself, and which is preparing to welcome new members with a view to supporting our country, Turkey.
Let us forgive all because of the Resurrection, and let us sing the Resurrected Lord, for the unity of our Churches must not occur with haste, but by means of reinvigorating the work of theological dialogue, and by means of circumstances which Divine Providence will reveal to us.
Your Eminence, your Excellency: Welcome to the center of the Great Church of Christ; on this historical date, marked by your cordial iniative, we assure you of our confidence in, and of our prayers for, the fruitful evolution of the dialogue between our Churches in quest of unity.