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Toast in honor of His Holiness, Aram Catholicos of Cilicia

Your Holiness, Your Eminences, Your Grace, Rev. Fathers, distinguished representative of the Greek Government, esteemed Professors and honoured Guests,

It is a great honor, a joy, and a pleasure for me, as Archbishop of Athens and Primate of the Church of Greece, to be able to host Your Holiness, the Catholicos of Cilicia and distinguished Churchman at this modest repast and to break bread with You, in a spirit of Christian love and brotherly esteem.

The warmth and cordiality that permeates the atmosphere at this table, reflect the strong bonds of love and friendship that unite our two nations: bonds and ties that extend back into early antiquity. Already from Hellenistic times our peoples were joined by ties of close communication, commerce and learning. Indeed, it was the Greek alphabet that filled the void that existed before the invention of the Armenian alphabet.

The relations between our two Churches also go back to the early Christian Centuries. And while Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as its official religion seventeen hundred years ago, it was in Caesarea of Cappadocia, a great centre of Hellenic-Roman culture and Christian spirituality that the great enlightener of Armenia, St. Gregory the Illuminator spent his formative years. It was there that he was ordained bishop of Armenia by Leontios of Caesarea and it was under Caesarea’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction that the Armenian Church remained until the fifth Century.

The ties between our two peoples and Churches have always been particularly close. This is not due only to the fact that we belong to historic and neighboring peoples. Indeed, throughout the long centuries of their existence, our Nations and Churches have followed parallel courses. The ties are close also because of the similar trials, tribulations and vicissitudes that our people have suffered. Both peoples have undergone cruel persecution because of their adherence to the Christian faith.

Such common trials and sufferings have had one good result: they have built bridges between those afflicted: bridges of understanding and love. These bridges have been forged by the tears of pain and sorrow shed by our peoples and by the blood of our martyrs, the victims of cruel genocide.

It is upon these bridges that our peoples here in Greece have built deep ties of understanding and collaboration. And while the obstacles to sacramental communion between our two Churches have not yet been overcome--obstacles due more to historical circumstances and differences in theological terminology, than to real Christological differences--there exists a warmth and immediacy in our relations to be envied even by Churches that enjoy full sacramental unity.

We are thankful for the ongoing dialogue between our Churches, a dialogue which we pray will culminate in full union. We are particularly grateful for all that Your Holiness has done towards this end, and for Your efforts towards the fostering of closer and more fraternal relationships among the Churches through the Ecumenical Movement, to which Your Holiness’ contribution has been outstanding.

I raise my cup and pray that our Lord keep Your Holiness, unto many years, in health, wisdom and strength, guiding You in all your God-pleasing labours for the advancement of the noble Armenian people, with whom we join in celebrating the auspicious occasion of the completion of seventeen hundred years of Christian life and witness. May the Lord preserve our two Christian Nations and peoples. May the bonds that unite them ever remain firm and unshaken, and may He lead us to full and complete union in Jesus Christ our Lord to whom be glory, honor and worship unto the ages.

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