Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I decried the trivialization of life and the destruction of nature in his Easter message, before exclaiming early Sunday that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead and the world was once again ruled by life.
Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the world's more than 200 million Orthodox Christians, said the same fanaticism that once called for the crucifixion of Jesus was still calling for death and destruction, and said cowardly leaders still denied their responsibility to stop it.
"We call for an end to the killing of one another, and we denounce the violence and fanaticism that threatens life," Bartholomew said. "The victory of the resurrection must be experienced as a victory of life, of brotherhood, of the future, of hope."
At just before midnight Saturday, after nearly an hour of chanting and prayer, the lights in the crowded Church of St. George in Istanbul went out and Bartholomew brought out several candles, the flame from which is traditionally brought from the site of Jesus' grave in Jerusalem.
As the procession moved outside, the light was passed from candle to candle until the entire congregation, many of its members pilgrims from Greece, was carrying a candle lit by the same flame. The congregation sang in unison in Greek, "Christos Anesti" or "Christ Is Risen."
Bartholomew, a great advocate of inter-religious dialogue, spoke from the patriarchate in Turkey, the 99 percent Muslim country that he calls home. But he expressed little hope that Christian teachings could change those who did not share the Christian faith, and instead called on the faithful to respect the lives of their fellow human beings.
"We know that the teaching about his death on the cross remains foolishness for those who remain unbelieving and who go the way of destruction," Bartholomew said. "It is, however, the power of God for us who walk in faith."
Bartholomew's speech was a call for the exaltation of life over death, in keeping with the theme of Easter, which is celebrated on the date when Christ is said to have risen from the dead after being crucified, reports AP.