President of the Republic conferring the Cross of St Mary's Land on His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew on October 27, 2000

Your All Holiness,
Metropolitan Stephanos,
Archbishop John of Karelia and all Finland,
Metropolitan Meliton of Philadelphia,
Very reverend brethren,
Ladies and gentlemen,

The visits of the Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch to different parts of the world are always followed closely by the public. The reason for this is Your personal devotion to the solution of the problems of this world. Your visit to Estonia is also a token of love and consideration for our people and our culture. Your caring for the Estonian Orthodox believers has been confirmed many times. You have sent your best bishop to this difficult field and I can only gratefully state that he has by today achieved much in building up the church.

Your understanding of the continuity of cultural traditions was also manifest in the canonisation of the martyr bishop Plato, who is the very first Estonian saint in our cultural tradition. The Orthodox thank You for this, and so do I. To care for a church means above all to shape its spiritual features. The confirmation of traditions through canonical and liturgical acts is like answering the prayers of the faithful, where we can see God's everyday work with His congregation. I know that the Estonian Orthodox Church has a decoration issued in honour of martyr bishop Plato. This Order of St Plato that was conferred on the Greek President Constantinos Stephanopoulos during his recent visit to Estonia. By this act, the Estonian saint and also the Orthodox here in Estonia introduced themselves to the world. I know this is a proud feeling.

The Patriarchate of Constantinople, known for its successful environmental symposiums, has a delightful message for Estonians - the next symposium will be dedicated to the problems of the Baltic Sea. I once more wish to confirm my consent to be a patron of this event. Let this be a token of my gratitude to You and the whole patriarchate for the consideration towards Estonia You have demonstrated. The Church in modern times is aware of the social needs that cannot be ignored by an ordinary member of the congregation, whether they be environmental problems, problems of the social sphere, education or church policy. The church is just as social as each member of its congregation. Several economic, canonical and political hardships that the Estonian Orthodox believers have had to tackle within the last years have made your church flexible and endowed it with life force. You have let all levels of the society, from local governments to the Prime Minister and the President, know that You are there and carry on your struggle, making them care for the fate and progress of Your church. And this is as it should be. Our Constitution provides that the state is separated from the church, but it has never been said that the church should be separated from the state. The church is part of the state. It grows with the state, and cares for its members likewise. If necessary, the church will, like Sir Thomas More, or Archbishop Becket of Canterbury contest the unethical dictate of the state. When state officials tend to forget about ethics, it is the church leaders who must refresh their memory.

Likewise, the big religions of the world are called upon to increase religious tolerance, so that the followers of Abraham and Mohammed, Jesus and Buddha could together speak of brotherly love without keeping their swords ready at hand. The Ecumenical movement should be especially close to the heart of the Ecumenical patriarch, and I am convinced that New Rome shall be its abundant source.

Your All Holiness,

For the services you have rendered and for the services I am certain You will be rendering to Estonia I have the great honour to bestow on You the Cross of Terra Mariana. This name in turn refers back to the time 829 years ago when this land was named after the Mother of God. It is therefore very fitting that this cross will now be bestowed on the Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch.

Thank You.

President of the Republic at the Reception Hosted by the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church on October 31, 2000, in Tallinn

Your All Holiness, honourable Patriarch Bartholomew,
Ladies and gentlemen,

You have now spent five busy days in Estonia. You have visited different corners of our country and seen the ecclesiastical life both in the capital and in the counties. I hope that your visit met the expectations you had of this little spot of land in its northern serenity. I know that during your journey here, you have met most of our leading statesmen, and that the meetings have been friendly. This shows that your auxiliaries have been doing a good job. In a complicated canonical and church policy situation, they have managed to straighten their rows and their positions and to present a clear image of the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church. This is a considerable accomplishment.

I also know there is a large fallow field that the church still has to plough. I wish the entire church strength and patience, as the gifts you have been given are like the talents that must be used skilfully. Most of all, I wish your church to have a name supported by mercy and social sensitivity. Then, people will come to you and grow with you. I wish your church strength and stamina in arranging the seminar and founding the monastery, as education and spiritual enlightenment are pillars of strength - for you and also for the future of Estonia.

There is a proverb that says: you cannot take your law to another monastery. In the current church policy situation, some people have unfortunately forgotten this rule. Besides pressure to neighbour churches, there is also indifference to laws that are common for everyone. Your visit to Estonia has brought clarity also in this respect, and we are grateful for the openness for compromise that should bring mitigation.

Likewise, I would like to thank you and your church here in Estonia for your sympathy, for your prayers and wreaths to commemorate the victims of the massacre of 1905. Ninety-five years ago, the Russian Empire ordered fire to be opened on the common inhabitants of Tallinn who claimed their right to become citizens. We are touched by your consideration. I believe that the citizens of Estonia will respond with equal consideration to the needs and the growing of the church.

Let us now raise our glasses to His Holiness and thank him for his consideration. To the glory of the church and the progress of faith!

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