Pope Francis met with an ecumenical scholarship organization on the morning of Jan. 11, thanking them for their dedication to the work of Christian unity.
“I express my deep gratitude to all the benefactors who have supported and (continue to) support the committee,” he told members of the Catholic Committee for Cultural Collaboration.
“Without your valued contribution this work would not be possible. Therefore, I encourage you to continue in the action that you perform.”
The committee, begun by Paul VI in 1963, is meeting to mark the occasion of their 50th anniversary. The organization is dedicated to helping students from the Orthodox Churches of the Byzantine tradition and the Oriental Orthodox Churches by a student exchange and scholarship program.
“The Second Vatican Council had not yet concluded when Paul VI instituted the Catholic Committee for Cultural Collaboration,” Pope Francis noted.
“The path of reconciliation and renewed fraternity between the Churches, wonderfully marked by the first historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, required the experience of friendship and sharing that arises from the mutual understanding between members of different Churches, and in particular the young people initiated into sacred ministry.”
Pope Francis addressed the student participants directly, saying “A special greeting to you, dear students, who are completing your theological studies in Rome. Your stay in our midst is important for the dialogue between the Churches of today and, above all, tomorrow.”
Expressing his own desire for Christian unity, he continued, “I thank God because he has granted me this beautiful opportunity to meet you and tell you that the Bishop of Rome loves you.”
“I hope that each of you can have a joyful experience of the Church and the city of Rome, enriched spiritually and culturally, and that you do not see yourselves as guests, but as brothers among brothers.”
“I am certain, that for your part, you by your presence you enrich the academic communities in which you study,” he added. “May the Lord bless you and the Madonna protect you.”