History of EOC


Ms. Teele Keskküla from Haädemeeste Transfiguration parish and Mr. Ergo Laas from Tartu St. Alexander parish took part as the representatives of the Estonian Orthodox Church in the Conference of Orthodox Youth at Constantinople from 18. June until 25. June 2000. The theme of the conference was "The Youth in the Church on Third Millennium'.
There was promising heat at the airport and very many Turks; we looked at each other with curiosity. We found the hosting Orthodox who surprisingly did not found us in their lists, but added our names quickly and found us swiftly some hotel rooms. So we were received and the conference could begin.
The beginning was a little confusing but impressive - a terrible mess in the conference center of the Hilton hotel, confusion with name plates, first acquaintance with the translation technics. Everybody was presented a paper-case with the sign of the Ecumenical Patriarchate which contained necessary material concerning the conference and the town. His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew made us a summary of the themes that were to be discussed on the conference. He explained why just such themes were chosen and how they concern the young Orthodox.
After the opening speech we were all called to reception in Hilton gardens. The gardens were wonderful, especially in comparison with the scarce verdure of the town. After this a magnificent supper was served. The service in Hilton was good all the week, as were the food, the hotel and the conference itself That evening we were so tired, however, of the traveling and the long day that sleep was the best thing.
Monday morning started with divine liturgy in Holy Trinity church at Taxim square - a beautiful and dim stone church. The celebration was in Greek as the majority of the participants were Greeks from different countries. So we did not understand the words but got the meaning and the holy communion. It was a nice beginning for an Orthodox assembly.
After lunch and a small rest the first session began. Usually there were three sessions in a day - two different themes in the morning which were continued in the afternoon; after the supper the speakers answered the questions of the listeners and there was a discussion. On Monday the theme was AIDS and the narcotics, the responsibility of the society in these fields and the possibilities of Church and other institutions to solve the problem.
Tuesday was dedicated to language problems. This was a hot theme for all the Greeks. It missed us, the non-Greeks somewhat, but at the same time it arose our own thoughts about the problems in translating the sacred texts into Estonian. The report that captivated everybody was about the relations between sexes. There were many new, beautiful and thought-provoking ideas concerning marriage as a sacrament.
In the evening we were brought to a boat trip on Bosphorus. Constantinople is a huge town, wherever you look at it. And altogether different from the Estonian towns. The landscape is magnificently hilly and all the houses have red roofs. We made a lot of photographs which however where not as nice as the real look. No picture ever fits the reality.
On Bosphorus we ate the supper in a nice restaurant and we had the possibility to see how the Greeks dance. They can all dance, which is rather amazing! When evening went on, all the six hundred people danced the Greek file dances - everybody was infected by the dancing ardor.
On Wednesday we started off early for Nicaea. There we visited the local church of Holy Wisdom, a museum of archaeological findings and many sites of archaeological excavations. The nature is wonderful there. All liked the lake of Nicea and were sad to leave it when the noon rest ended. It is an interesting feeling to walk in the places where important events of Church history have taken place - as you were a part of that history.
Thursday was filled with sessions on various themes. There was a discussion about war and peace and what the Orthodox Church has done to help people in war areas. It was a sensitive issue for some of the participants, as it touched them personally. It was good to hear competent and constructive answers for questions. A second report talked about social justice, but it was a bit dry, because it was read by another person. Then about the ecological problems and the responsibility of the youth in this matter. a discussion concerning the youth in the Orthodox diaspora ended the day.
As the days were long - we began at 8.30 a.m. and the last session ended in 10. 30 p.m. - we were quite tired. But the tiredness did not disturb the general merry atmosphere. It was more important to get new knowledge and experience.
On Friday we were offered a score of experiences. We could make acquaintance with the town. We visited the hippodrome, Hagia Sophia cathedral, the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace. Every one of these has its own history which is worth of hearing and gives the places their specific significance. The hippodrome impressed with its age, Hagia Sophia with its unbelievable size (unfortunately the church looks quite sad nowadays - its turning into a mosque has not made it look well and time also has had its influence. The Blue Mosque was extremely beautiful with a soft carpet and thousands of fine ornaments on the roof, walls and windows... On every possible place. Unfortunately we had too little time to visit the Topkapi Palace and so we could just run through some most important rooms. We saw, however, the nice old utensils and gifts to the sultan and we heard stories about the palace and its inhabitants. The wonderful view to the gulf and the Asian part of Constantinople was probably one of the things worth seeing. Again I understood that no photograph can pass on the feeling.
During the dinner the St. John Chrysostom Choir from Thessalonica sang us. Their music was sweet to our ears, fine, well-performed and captivating. During folk songs the Greeks again showed their dancing abilities and I also managed to learn some new dances.
Saturday morning began, as is due, with a liturgy in the Patriarchate church. As the liturgy lasted long (for who did not want to communicate!), the audience of the Patriarch did not take place. Fortunately, it was possible to meet him once more on Saturday evening, on the last session. There he made us some presents - a common photograph and a nice scroll with metal seal. The Patriarch is popular among young Orthodox and everybody wanted to be photographed with him. His Holiness did kindly let everyone to satisfy this vanity.
The evening ended with a pleasant dinner at the swimming pool of the Hilton hotel. Many young singers and musicians appeared and again we danced the file dances with live music. All were in an elated and lovely mood. Everyone made acquaintances with the ones he had not done before, addresses and good wishes were exchanged, and it was promised to meet again soon. I sincerely hope that everyone of us Will get that possibility sooner or later.
And so it was Sunday. The more fortunate of us could go to Island Chalki but as our plane was leaving earlier, we had to be content with a last visit to the town, making the last photographs and bargaining for souvenirs. It was a pity to leave, we had begun to like the town, although it was totally non-European. We could not have a closer look on so many things that we were sure we have to come back soon and examine many things more thoroughly.
All the week was fruitful and it is good to know that you have people of like mind all over the world. Many new ideas sprang out and the youth get an idea that such a meeting should be made regular, because this meeting showed how much we have got to talk about and to share.
On our way back I and Ergo discussed the themes of the conference and made the conclusion that it is needed to make more intensive Orthodox youth work in Estonia. We have got much to win. And we have got to learn a lot. Anyway, we had some ideas and some fervor. Thanks for the Patriarchate, our Metropolitan and Church Administration who made this travel possible.
Teele Keskküla

"The Youth of the Church in the Third Millennium"

"Blessed be Christ our God, who gathered us from the ends of the earth in unity and to the communion of the Holy Spirit"
The Holy in Christ Great Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople has convened from June 18`" to 25 `h, in the Queen of Cities, the first worldwide conference of Orthodox youth with the theme: "The youth of the Church in the Third Millennium." The Conference was organized in the context of the festive events for the 2000 year anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ.
We the more than 500 participants have gathered "for this" on the feast day of Pentecost representing all jurisdictions of the Ecumenical Throne, the sister Orthodox Churches, Orthodox Theological Schools and Academies, other Christian Churches, International Church oriented organizations, Foundations, and Societies.
1 On the occasion of this Ecumenical Youth Conference, we exchanged our worries for the most important current issues that occupy the minds of the youth. Our Conference took place in the perspective of the Third Millennium, when we will be called to receive from prior generations the baton of responsibility for the future course of our Church.
2 The Church marches throughout history gathered around the Holy Altar where "the breaking of the bread" greets the resurrected Christ, restructures its ethos and tastes the end beforehand (eschata). The eucharistic ethos directs the Church how to proceed throughout the ages and how to manage the grief of the fallen world, with the final goal always being the salvation of mankind. It was therefore natural for us to discuss about the inclination towards the priestly vocation and the monastic dedication, for as these are the utmost expression of the visions and demands for those who desire their whole life to be dedicated to the Love of Christ and to the service to one's neighbor.
3 We unanimously expressed our voice as for the necessity to save the whole completely of the essential tenets of the Orthodox tradition. Simultaneously we asked for solutions to all the practical issues that the pastoral care of the church is called to face and deal with, while it is obligated to be present in the events of the life of the world in both a dynamic and a metamorphic way, without giving into temptations of the old which shows itself as traditional.
4 Our Conference dealt with the problem that arises from the vocational training of the young and also with the great and recurring global problem of unemployment, which plagues the youth more and more. We shared the joint struggle for our future and promoted what distinguishes the Orthodox youth, which does not succumb to despair, because the young people are inspired by the hope in the providence of God, they rely on prayer and they feel the presence of their fellow brother in Christ. Simultaneously, one struggles for the protection of man's and woman's rights in the workplace, and in turn for every young male and female.
5 It was also stressed that for the Christian youth, the profession is not only a means of survival, but also a training ground of virtue and service to our neighbors. It was also expressed that new salary jobs should be created in the church for the young people who can assist in the pastoral, administrative, and communal work of the Church.
6 The sensitivity of the youth to the greater social issues that threaten today's society and especially the youth, such as AIDS and narcotics was found to be at the center of our concerns. We stressed with emphasis the need for educational and moral fortification of the orthodox youth, from a very young age until they develop in time spiritual "antibodies" in order to combat every destructive threat. Thus we formulated that the loving disposal that should characterize the pastoral stance of the Church toward the victims of this tragic wound of mankind should be projected in "word and deed". This concern and sensitivity should be driven by the spirit of the Gospel and be practiced with knowledge and understanding of the sociological, medical, bioethical, judicial, and psychological parameters of these problems.
7 The fact that in this Conference of youth participated young people from different countries where different languages are spoken, brought to forefront the importance of the mother tongue for the Greek diaspora. The language as a unique element of a cultural identity of one people, entails a valid position in the preservation of it self?identity. This unique natural element is not necessarily identified with the essence of Orthodoxy.
8 The youth submitted their anxiety for the difficulty in understanding the liturgical texts and simultaneously expressed the reservations for any forced efforts of linguistic kenotomies that could fade the character and the deep content of our liturgical heritage. The preservation of the mother tongue of the Orthodox in the diaspora should not be underestimated, as it constitutes a vital element of conservation of their identity and their relationship with the roots of their cultural heritage.
9 Approaching the vital issue of the relationship of the two sexes, as Orthodox youth we condemned the subtle undermining and the degradation of the most holy elements of the interpersonal relations of man in this life, i.e. love, Eros, and marital commitment. Against the destructive phenomenon of immorality and the cheapening of sex to a marketable object of lesser quality, we pose sturdily the assuredness that physical attraction find its true dimensions when its natural magnetism is completed in a loving marriage, where it is elevated into a great mystery "in Christ and in the Church."
10 As the youth is faces the war and the ever increasing trend of dehumanization we proclaimed our bitterness for the continuous and repeated and unkept promises of the major world powers for peace. The experiences of unjustifiable wars and the one-sided interdictions in cases of unjust attacks and hostilities, raised questions in our conscience about the lack or the existence of justice. For these reasons we approach the issue of peace as a whole and worldly query as expressed by the biblical, fatherly, and liturgical use of the term as used in the Church.
11 We unreservedly accept the value of the human person which we place above all demands. Being young we desire and envision peace as a gift of God and as a fruit of the Holy Spirit. We deny religious fundamentalism and the holy wars and present as a solution of the problems that arise between individuals and peoples, dialogue, getting to know one another, and the understanding and respect of their differenciality.
12 Along these lines we proclaimed the desire for peace among people and also between man and nature. This second perspective deals with the ecological problem. The Orthodox trend is not to be solved fragmentally but confronted in a full dimensionate way. The purification of man through liturgical life and the growth of original relationship with the members of the parish entail the assumption of healthy initiatives which awake the individual and shape his collective responsibility for the realization of the problem. On these matters we eagerly adopt with much energy the initiatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate up to date.
13 The corresponding sensitivity we again expressed for other social problems, which arise from the exacerbation of social injustices. As youth we have shown specific sensitivity for human rights, such as basic freedoms, the protection of the human being, and its essential completion in the field of the cultural and social horizons.
14 Specifically, to the theme of the Diaspora, which is a synthesis of many partial problems, we raise our voice in praise towards the sister Orthodox Churches for unity and surpassing their differences. We assure that we will work for this goal. We also assure that we will work with brotherly love and sacrifice from the elevation of the spiritual values, the respect of life, rejoining the institution of family, the restoration of honest relationships with the brothers of other Christian Churches and denominations, the return to the flock for those who have strayed and the establishment of a community of faith and love among all of us. We pray that the Lord of peace will bring to a common meeting the representatives of the Churches and Nations for the quelling of the clashes and the advancement of co? brotherhood and concord.
15 Finally, we the youth who have come from the ends of the earth, here where the heart of Orthodoxy beats, conversing amongst us in a spirit of reconciliation and "in the bond of love" we submit the following considerations:
15a We consider it our duty to struggle so that our destination towards the Third Millennium will make obvious in every way the unity of our Ecumenical Orthodoxy, which respects the human person, the uniqueness of local traditions and the history of each people.
156 In the spirit of its liturgical unity the "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church" is called to render clarity to the prophetic charisma, therefore reminding the people of God that the authentic path of salvation is through repentance.
15c We express to the Head of Orthodoxy, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and to the Holy Synod of the Throne, wholehearted thanks for the decision to call together this historical Conference. The invitation and the abundant hospitality which was bestowed upon us, met our disposition to approach with our sensitivities of the heart and the spirit, the most important current events which occupy our minds. The continual presence among us of His All Holiness, our young hearted Patriarch, fortifies our desire for new efforts, gentle visions, and dedication to the faith of our Fathers, and gives us the candor to request so that the convention of the Conference of Youth becomes a formal repeated event like the one we intensely experienced.
We praise God for His abundant and blessed gifts, and we humbly proclaim with Apostle Paul: "So faith, hope, love abide, these three but
the greatest of these is love". (1 Cor.13.13).

See also the "photo reporting" on this event

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