Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I made a heartfelt appeal today during Mass in Bari’s Basilica of St Nicholas, telling Christians that they cannot be indifferent to human exploitation, the suffering of those forced to leave their land, or the "religious fundamentalism that claims to act in God’s name."
The patriarch was in Bari (Italy) where he received the
Saint Nicholas Ecumenical Prize from the Apulian Theological Faculty (Facoltà Teologica Pugliese).
During the homily, the patriarch mentioned first Apulia’s "ecumenical
vocation and hospitable style", a "welcoming land in the past as in the
present," as evinced by the number of people who found refuge in the
past, most notably "Christians persecuted as a result of foreign
invasions, fratricidal wars and ensuing famines in the countries on the
other side of the sea” as well as in “the very recent past, when this
land welcomed people fleeing from totalitarian countries, where it was
not possible to be a disciple of Christ."
"Unfortunately today, once again, the Mediterranean Sea, a sea of
culture, a sea solidarity, a sea of cooperation, has become a sea of
waves of refugees and immigrants from everywhere.
“As Christians we do not remain indifferent to this cry of pain – and
we know that this land continues to do its part – but at the same time
we cannot be silent before the scandal of the commodification of people,
of religious fundamentalism that claims to act in God’s name, of man's
exploitation of man, of the depletion of natural resources for the
benefit of a few to the detriment of the many, especially the poorest.”
“The common house, the natural environment, belongs to God and we are
not only its stewards, we are not new godless people. For this reason,
we have raised the cry along with our beloved Brother in Rome, Pope
Francis, from the island of Lesbos to all the powerful of the earth, to
those who have the fate of humanity in their hands, and we continue to
do so in the name of God, the Father Almighty, the Merciful Father."
"However, as Christians, we have a strong weapon, a weapon of peace,
an invincible weapon, which is prayer, and tonight we are here to pray
together in our saint of unity", namely, Saint Nicholas. He "was a
bishop beloved by his people, a bishop who lived for the truth of the
faith, in his battle against the Arian heresy of his time, but also the
right bishop in his Church.
“Defender of the poor, implacable judge in front of the injustices of
the powerful, and a steely fighter of sin, he was also a gentle man,
full of self-constraint, forgiving, full of compassion for the
weaknesses of the faithful – which began to manifest itself with the
freedom for the Christian faith following the Edict of Milan – and a
firm aide in defending traditions and righteousness.
“This is why his fame spread beyond the boundaries of his Church in
Myra, Lycia. May he continue to be our friend and companion on the way
of salvation and unity."