Address of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew during the Prayer for Peace in Novi Sad, Serbia, October 22, 1999
As we encounter the mournful faces of those
of you who, together with your people, have been subjected
to assaults from the air, we do not know whether we should
express our joy for this meeting or our sadness for what has
occurred. We find ourselves weeping amongst those who are
weeping, because we do not have amongst us those who would
otherwise be rejoicing so that we could rejoice with them.
We would, however, prefer to express our joy, so that the
evil one will not gloat excessively that he has succeeded
in removing from our hearts the joy which the Lord of truth,
life, and victory over death has assured us that no one can
take away. Even in the midst of a myriad of hardships, we
rejoice and are triumphant over the sad things in life, inspiring
in those that have been injured, an optimism and faith in
the help of God, who alone can increase two-fold and further
bless the last things of the faithful more than the first,
as He did with Job (Job 4: 2, 10, 12).
However, for a suffering people to have the
last things more abundantly blessed than the first, they must
not sin against the Lord, in spite of all that has happened
to them, and they must not return imprudence to God (Job 1:22).
Those who are imprudent should be held accountable, whoever
they are, and from wherever they may come. Yet we who, in
the spirit of God's love, have time and again condemned the
imprudence of war, just as we have condemned racism and nationalism,
now wholeheartedly pray that the tempest of war has passed,
and that the Lord will show compassion to those who are to
blame as well as to the blameless, to the victims and to the
oppressors alike. We further pray that God will grant everyone
repentance and prudence in all things, so that even in this
dreadfully tormented region of the Balkans, there will prevail
the beloved peace "which is something sweet in name and
in essence" (St Gregory the Theologian Homily 22, Eirenikos
2, para 1). Then the disasters will be rectified, the region
restored to health and the river of life that overpowers death
will continue to flow and perform its peacekeeping role in
War and violence are not means used by God
to achieve a result. They are machinations of the devil and
are used for the most part to achieve unlawful ends. We say "for the most part" because, as is well known, in
a few but certain instances the Orthodox Church forgives the
armed defence against oppression and violence in general.
However, it is the rule that a peaceful resolution of differences
and peaceful co-operation are more pleasing to God and more
beneficial to humankind.
War and violence breed hatred and revenge,
leading to an endless cycle of evil until opponents completely
annihilate each other. For this reason St Paul exhorts us: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12: 21). We know that each of us is able to determine
his own behaviour. However, large numbers of people acting
together develop other modes of behaviour that are determined
either by a majority or by authority or by the more dominant
We Christians must never forget the example
of our Lord Jesus Christ and the beatitude blessing for the
peacemakers; neither must we forget the continual prayer for
peace of the whole world. Christians by conviction are lovers
of peace and silence. We are not, however, idle or meddlesome.
We adopt all good deeds and in accordance with the Apostolic
exhortation (Titus 3:14), we learn to assume leadership in
these. The fact that we wish to lead peaceful and serene lives
amid a prevailing calmness among nations does not mean that
we do not participate in the concerns of life. Rather, in
so far as it is possible, we do not participate in conflicts.
Witness the Apostolic words: "If possible, so far as
it depends upon you, live peaceably with all" (Romans12:18).
It is true that sometimes there are serious
dilemmas to be faced. However, when Christians seek divine
illumination through hard and heartfelt prayer, they are directed
toward solutions by the teachings of the Gospel and by Divine
grace. Here are three basic principles:
Put your sword back in its place;
for all who take the sword will perish by the sword (Matthew
Never avenge yourselves, but give way to
wrath; for it is written, 'vengeance is mine, I will repay',
says the Lord (Romans 12:19);
Render then to Caesar the things that are
Caesar's and to God those things that are God's (Matthew
From these guiding principles are derived
many others, which combined with the other well-known Gospel
commands, comprise an alternative attitude of life and a perception
that cross and crucifixion, martyrdom and sacrifice are followed
by resurrection: a resurrection invisible to many, but an
actual and genuine resurrection for those able to see things
more deeply and more clearly.
The victor is not the one who has tyrannically
imposed his view, but the one who has justice on his side.
Our main concern is, consequently, not to impose ourselves,
but to walk together with justice and not to do injustice.
This appears to be more advantageous in the long term, because
whatever is built on injustice collapses with the passage
of time. That is why we see wars being repeated: because after
each war matters are regulated on the basis of might rather
than on the basis of right.
As Christians who study history, we know
(which means that we see it proved in the rules of human logic,
and not only through faith) that the above is true and we
know that justice and truth prevail in the end, so long as
there is someone to seek after them. It is for this reason
that we always seek truth and justice, which give birth to
peace, and, like the philosopher Socrates, prefer to have
injustice done to us than to do injustice.
In this way, we pursue peace. "Seek peace, and pursue
it" the psalmist recommends (Psalm 34:14). This peace
is well grounded in the firm foundation of justice; we always
hold before our eyes the notion that being crucified, we expect
resurrection. By loving the Risen Lord, we overcome fear,
forgive our enemies, pray for all, and in this world live
the reality of the other world, which this world does not
Thus, repeatedly and unceasingly, we invite
all the faithful: "Let us pray to the Lord, for the peace
of the whole world and for the stability of the holy Churches
Standing at this sacred place, we pay tribute
and express gratitude for the sacrifice of all the victims
of the Second World War and of all wars, whether they be Jews,
Christians, Muslims, of any or of no faith. We call to memory
the environmental wounds of the region, the natural devastation,
and the destruction of cultural and religious monuments, synagogues,
churches, and mosques alike. We pay tribute and express gratitude
for the victims of every ethnicity or ideology whatsoever,
the victims of war and violence in general, without discrimination.
We pray for the repose of their souls, that their unjustly
shed blood will continuously water the tree of peace.