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Metropolitan Geron Emmanuel of Chalcedon at the G20 Interfaith Forum 2021

September 24, 2021

BOLOGNA, Italy – His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel Geron of Chalcedon was one of the speakers at the G20 Interfaith Forum 2021 in Italy. He spoke on the subject Dialogue on Dialogue and said among other things that, “Orthodoxy has a long experience of cohabitation with other religions and Christian denominations. However, this experience has not always been a peaceful and easy one, especially following the rise of nationalism during the second half of the 19th century and the influence of global geopolitical forces throughout the 20th century. A series of historical events have shaped the Orthodox relationship to religious pluralism, redefining the religious landscape through movement of populations and migrations. Thus, I would like to thank the organizers of today’s conference for their invitation to discuss the question, or rather principles, of dialogue.

The Orthodox Church in general and the Ecumenical Patriarchate in particular have developed a deeper understanding of what dialogue is, not only as a means of survival, but also as a theological space for communion and deification. The recent document endorsed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and prepared by a group of Orthodox scholars from various backgrounds, titled For the Life of the World: Towards a Social Ethos of the Orthodox Church, explores, among other social issues, the centrality of dialogue as part of an Orthodox Social Ethos. This modest presentation intends to examine the challenges and opportunities of Ecumenical and Interfaith dialogues in and for the Orthodox Church, considering dialogue as a dimension of her ethos.” In another instance he said that, “every dialogue has its roots in the life of the Divine Trinity, which is known through the incarnation of the Logos, the Word. For St. John Chrysostom, this feature of the divine dialogue must primarily be received as a gift granted to us by God himself. For God offers Himself first and foremost through the words of the prophets, the apostles, the saints, and through the natural environment. God speaks. From the very first hours of His revelation, He is a being of relationship, waiting for the consecration of his chosen people, giving them the Ten Commandments as a sign of His love. If we stick to a broader definition of dialogue as an exchange of words, the words addressed by God to His people are varied in nature. While some are real conversations, others are vocations, calls, and elections. The conversion of hearts within the people of God becomes the preferred area of prophetic action. In fact, with its announcements of misfortune and the proclamation of God’s judgment, the heart of the prophetic message is a call to conversion. From Amos to Hosea, from Isaiah to Micah, the curse and the imminence of divine judgment calls for a change in the life of humanity. As such, the Orthodox Church is dedicated to a sustained dialogue with other Christians because their unity is the only real expression of God’s love for the world.”

Metropolitan Emmanuel also said that, “dialogue exists in all our social encounters, from our own families to the political sphere, but it is also found in our encounters with those who are religiously different from us, whether they are Christian or not. For Orthodox Christians living in non-Orthodox countries, interreligious encounters and dialogue are and will continue to be important means through which to achieve respect for religious differences and proclaim the truth. Ecumenical dialogue isn’t just about finding common ground, it is about the unity of all Christians in the communion of Churches. Dialogue is ultimately a form of communion according to Orthodox theology, especially when it comes to the quest for Christian unity.”

Metropolitan Emmanuel continued: “Therefore, dialogue is a divine mission from which humanity cannot be separated, for dialogue unites. It must thus be understood as something different from negotiation, debate, confrontation, invective, teaching, etc. To paraphrase a famous quote from Claude Lévi Strauss when speaking of civilization, dialogue ‘implies the coexistence of cultures offering the maximum diversity among them, and even consists of this coexistence.’ Dialogue appears as a paradoxical tension between coexistence and exposure to the maximum level of diversity.”

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