Your All-Holiness, the archbishop of New Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, your eminent hierarchs, beloved fathers, sisters and brothers in Christ,

I greet our father and patriarch Bartholomew and all of you who have gathered here in the cathedral of Theotokos on this festal day, in which we celebrate the autonomy given by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Orthodox Church in Finland a hundred years ago. I especially rejoice to see the children and the youth
here among us.

We are deeply grateful to have you as our guest. Last time you visited us, we celebrated the 90 th anniversary of our autonomy. Under your leadership, we had the experience of being children of the apostolic and catholic Church, which transcends all boundaries of language and nationality.

I see your presence here as even more important today. By your personality and presence, you bring us, who have gathered here, joy, courage, and strength to remain faithfully spiritual children of the Orthodox Church in a rapidly changing world.

The Scriptures read today inspired me in a way that I would like to share with you today. As a background, we know that Israel revolted against God and Moses because their journey through the desert did not seem to come to an end. God punished them by sending serpents among them, and many were bitten and
killed. God ordered Moses to make a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. All those who were bitten were saved if they raised their gaze upon the bronze snake.

Christ invites us to do the same as the Israelites did with the bronze snake, that in agony, we should look to him. As we read from the letter to the Hebrews, we should “focus on Jesus.” (cf. Hebr. 3:1)

As you know well, it is the deported children to Russia who are in great distress today amidst the current invasion of Ukraine. I want to speak directly since I know that the children are also close to Your All-Holiness’ heart. Most of the deported children have been living in Ukrainian orphanages and group homes.
Deportations constitute a war crime, but even more troubling is that the children are taught to forget their Ukrainian identity in the Russian camps.

Children are holy, and our Orthodox Church is called to protect children worldwide. The sanctity of children cannot be compared or reduced to their particular features, for it is the nature of sanctity that it lacks the principle of comparison altogether. This means that the value of a child is not merely the highest point of ethical standards but lies entirely outside of them.

And what will we say to Ukrainian refugees here with us, mothers, who are torn apart from their children, relatives, and loved ones? When words fail us, our mission is to suffer with our neighbors but also fix our gaze together on Christ. In the end, it is the conclusive evidence of the victory of divine love that the
almighty God has become a small child for the sake of humanity. I am convinced that the ancient truth that God is love is always new. We are never ready to grasp the true vastness of this love.

Your All-Holiness. With these words, I would like to greet you on behalf of the Orthodox Church in Finland and welcome you and your distinguished party here in our parish, which welcomes you with love.