Your Eminence, beloved Concelebrant and Brother in the Lord:
It is with great joy that we have concelebrated the Divine Liturgy at the conclusion of my first visit as Primate of the Orthodox Church in America to Your Eminence and the Holy Orthodox Church in Finland. The common faith of our two Sister Churches has been celebrated and strengthened by this concelebration of the Holy Mysteries and through our sharing in the One Bread and One Cup, the Precious and Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
This Divine Liturgy has not only been a celebration of our common faith, but also of the love that is ours in Jesus Christ. It is this essential bond of love that unites us, which guides us in our common ministry to build up the body of Christ, not for our own sake, but for the sake of the life-giving Gospel. And it is this essential bond of love that our time together has revealed as we have shared in worship and fellowship these past few days.
Throughout my trip I have become increasingly aware of how strong the bonds are that unite our two Churches. It was in this very Cathedral that St. Alexander Hotovitzky, who served as a missionary in America for eighteen years, and whose memory is still deeply cherished in our Church, was stationed before his return to St. Petersburg and his eventual martyrdom. Similarly, our two Churches are deeply attached to the spiritual, monastic and missionary legacy of the great monastery of Valaam. And over the years, many close and warm connections have developed between our hierarchs, clergy and faithful.
Perhaps most importantly, however, our Churches are today united in our common task of witnessing to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in modern, largely secular western societies. We share many challenges and many common concerns. We are deeply committed to mission, education, and humanitarian work. We share a special sense of how our fidelity to Holy Tradition must be combined with an active and creative engagement with modernity. We are united in building strong local Orthodox traditions in our respective contexts. Truly we have much to learn from each other and much to gain from future collaboration and I pray that this trip will lead to even further and deeper contacts between our two Churches.
Your Eminence: my visit to the Orthodox Church in Finland now comes to an end. Please know that it has not only filled me with joy, but has also renewed me spiritually. The hospitality which you and your flock offered is appreciated more than words can express, and the opportunity to strengthen the bond of faith and love which we share has been a true blessing.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the memorable days which we have spent together and for the opportunity to share our common faith. And I anxiously await the moment when we shall meet again, hopefully soon, to once again concelebrate the bloodless sacrifice “on behalf of all and for all,” on behalf of our respective flocks, so devoted to proclaiming the Gospel and eager to live it at every moment of their lives!
Please know that you are always in my prayers and in the prayers and hearts of the hierarchs, clergy, monastics, and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America. While the miles may separate us in the days to come, the bond of love forged by our common faith in the risen Lord shall ever unite us as one body—the Body of Christ, the Holy Orthodox Church!