Here are English translations, by me, of Archbishop André Vingt-Trois' greeting to His Beatitude Alexis II, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, at the Cathedral of Paris this past Wednesday, and the Address of Alexis II at the Cathedral. These translations were made from the French texts available on the website of Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris. I have not found an English translation elsewhere. If I find one, I will add a link to this post.
Greeting by Archbishop André Vingt-Trois:
It is a great honor for the Catholics of Paris, and especially for their archbishop, to be able to welcome your Beatitude to this prestigious cathedral. For more than eight hundred years, it has been the center of our city and the architectural symbol of the faith of our city’s Christians. Even more importantly, on account of the events that have transpired here, it is a symbol of our national identity with which many French people identify, even if they are not Christians. From the number of its visitors from all continents, it is one of Paris’s best known and most visited monuments. But, beyond all that, it is above all the diocese’s mother church where Parisian Catholics often meet. We are proud to honor you here today.
Your visit this day is not a tourist’s visit, but the visit of a great believer. On the occasion of your visit to Western Europe, your Beatitude wished to make a special pilgrimage here to venerate the significant relics from the Passion of our Savior, and in particular the Crown of Thorns which we received in trust and which we regularly venerate in this cathedral. I am happy that you accepted the invitation that I sent to you for this walk of a believer and pilgrim.
The material traces, the relics, of the Passion of the Lord turn our gaze and our prayer to the blessed days of his terrestrial sojourn, when, pressed by the love of God, he came to give his life for the benefit of the multitude of humanity. This outpouring of divine mercy makes us bend our knees before the Father, from whom comes all fatherhood and all love. The long history of humanity, and especially that of 20th century Europe, has shown what horrors political ideologies can attain that have rejected love in preference for the domination of the party or the idolatry of race and power. This long tragic period at least has shown how, strengthened by the power of his resurrection, the true disciples of Christ, even if they have been condemned to silence and clandestine living, or have been persecuted, kept the zeal of faith alive by all the possible means, often at the price of their freedom or lives. By venerating the Crown of Thorns, we unite in one same movement the memory of Christ’s Passion, their memory, and the memory of those who have followed in his steps by fidelity to the faith.
Our common attachment to the person of Christ crucified and resurrected allows me to make a vow in your presence: that your Holiness’s pilgrimage will be a living sign of the bonds of faith that already unite our Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, that it also will be a prophetic sign of the unity among Christians to which we aspire. As you know, the events of modern history have allowed Orthodox Christians to become well established in France. Thanks to them, we French Catholics can know Orthodoxy better, in the unity of its faith and the diversity of its traditions and jurisdictions, and our relations are facilitated by the representation and coordination service that exists in the Assembly of French Orthodox Bishops. We are building brotherly relations with the Orthodox that we wish to develop further. I do not doubt that your presence here today constitutes an encouragement to move forward in a better mutual knowledge and a brotherly respect between members of our Churches.
The differences between our respective traditions, like the differences between our social and cultural situations, far from constituting an insurmountable obstacle, actually encourage us to develop an exchange with each other of the gifts of Providence. We have received much already, especially from Russian theologians of the immigration. We are following the revival of the Orthodox Church in Russia with interest, and we give thanks for the fruits that it is producing, especially in parish and monastic life and the service of the poor. We Catholics are convinced that we have much to learn and to gain by experience from the Orthodox Churches. Would I dare to say that our own experience of a faith lived in a very different situation must not fail to interest you?
Beatitude, we are about to hear together the proclamation of the same Gospel, we will each pray in our tradition the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples. We will bless the Christians brought together in this brotherly meeting. How could we not be inspired by the prayer of Jesus himself before his Passion: "That they may be one as we are one"?
+ Andre VINGT-TROIS, Archbishop of Paris
Address by His Beatitude Alexis II:
Your Excellency, Archbishop André Vingt-Trois, Bishops, dear fathers, brothers and sisters, I would like, first of all, to express my gratitude to you, Archbishop André Vingt-Trois, for your invitation to visit your cathedral and to venerate one of the most significant relics of the Christian world - Our Lord Jesus Christ’s crown of thorns. Thank you too for allowing the Orthodox Christians to pray here regularly.
The Savior’s death and resurrection opened the gates of eternal life to us, where, according to the expression of an ancient liturgical chant, there "is neither pain, nor sadness, nor moaning." Even if the world surrounding us is fraught with vain and false idols, even if it is full of affliction, despair and sorrow, we know that the gates of Heaven are open to us, and we invite everyone to enter there, answering God’s invitation: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.” That call is given to every man and to all people. Thanks be to God that it has been heard by many people throughout the course of European Church history. Millions of men and women still answer it today.
The time has come for us to combine our efforts to face the new challenges of the present world. We, the Christians, must find the opportunity to testify together to the Truth of the Gospel and to eternal ethical values. Indeed, we see that present day society, losing ethical benchmarks and following false values, is becoming increasingly inhumane and cruel, generating multiple conflicts and oppositions, as much between people as between communities and people. That is why I address to you today, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, with a deep concern and awareness of our common responsibility before God for our present world’s situation.
This cathedral is the true heart of Paris and of all France. For centuries, its ancient walls witnessed many historical tribulations during which it seemed that iniquity triumphed and that evil won. However, each time, the relic preserved here expressed the power of God. I deeply hope that this cathedral will be not only the symbol of your country’s past, and your people’s past, but also the symbol of their future.
Benefiting from the hospitality of the honorable Archbishop of Paris, I would like to address some words to the Orthodox bishops, priests and faithful gathered together this evening to pray together before this relic. In the 20th century, divine providence brought to France people from various Orthodox countries: from Russia, Greece, the Ukraine, Bellorussia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova . . . The history of this emigration has been such that several dioceses and many parishes were created, springing from local Orthodox Churches. The diversity of the Orthodox presence in France is both a special richness and, at the same time, a responsibility.
It is a richness, because the canonical and spiritual link with the mother Churches allows their faithful living in the West to grow within the Orthodox tradition, relying on their own culture and language. The diversity of traditions and their mutual exchange makes it possible to enrich our lives and ministries.
It is a responsibility because you are called to creatively combine the various traditions and to reinforce Orthodox unity in France, without neglecting the characteristics of this or that part of the Orthodox people from various homelands living in this country.
Your Excellency, dear Archbishop André Vingt-Trois, honorable bishops and pastors, dear brothers and sisters, I am sincerely happy that the Lord has allowed me to visit France and to meet you today. I wish you all, dear colleagues, to grow "in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to him be glory now and to the day of eternity."