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Archbishop of Canterbury's Greeting to His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch

Monday 17th November 2003

Given during the first formal visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, to the Phanar in Istanbul, Turkey, in the presence of HAH Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

Your All-Holiness, Beloved Brother in Christ,

It means more to me than I can adequately express to be with you in this holy place. This city has been at the heart of the Orthodox Church for so many centuries and the Patriarchate over which you preside has been a vital centre of worship, teaching and faithfulness throughout that time. It has been a matter of great importance to me that I should visit there in my first year as Archbishop of Canterbury, as a sign of my commitment and that of the Anglican Communion to the full visible unity of Christ's Church. It gives me great joy to follow my recent predecessors in making this pilgrimage to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

As the inheritor of the throne of Augustine, coming from a Church whose roots go back to the Christian missions of the days of Constantine, I have a particular concern that the Eastern and Western traditions of the Church should be reconciled. I have a deep personal respect for the liturgical and theological traditions of Orthodoxy, and I owe an immense debt of gratitude for the friendship over many years of my dear friend His Eminence Metropolitan John of Pergamon. I was deeply grateful for his presence, with that of His Eminence Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain, representing Your All Holiness at my enthronement earlier this year. For some years I was a member of the International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue, and my prayer, study and ministry has been immensely enriched by the wisdom and insights which was shared by my Orthodox brethren in that Dialogue.

I come here in the first year of my ministry as Archbishop of Canterbury, but you will be aware that even in this short time the Anglican Communion has been brought to face difficult questions about our belonging to one another, and our perception of permissible diversity within the Body of Christ. Following our meeting at Lambeth in October, with my fellow Primates I have asked some of the wisest theologians and pastors in the Communion to form a Commission to suggest how we may find our way forward. I ask that you support their work with your prayers.

Despite our present difficulty, I am confident that the Anglican Communion and the Orthodox Churches will continue to grow together in love and fellowship. There is much that unites us, and it has been a source of great happiness that in our Dialogue we have been able to agree statements about our common doctrine of the Church. This growth in understanding has been built on a foundation of personal respect and affection, and I trust that this will be strengthened as our bishops, clergy and lay people learn to know each other, to understand each other's traditions, and to share the deep love of our Lord. It is therefore with faith and hope, as well as love, that I greet Your All Holiness and ask for your prayers for the ministry that we share.

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