Vatican City, Nov 30, 2016 / 16:15 pm
The Bishop of Rome sent a message to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople on Wednesday, continuing a recent tradition of ecumenism between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.
“The exchange of delegations between Rome and Constantinople on the occasion of the respective feast days honouring the brother apostles Peter and Andrew is a visible sign of the profound bonds that already unite us,” Pope Francis said Nov. 30 in his message to Bartholomew I, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople.
“So too, it is an expression of our yearning for ever deeper communion, until that day when, God willing, we may witness to our love for one another by sharing the same eucharistic table. In this journey towards the restoration of eucharistic communion between us, we are sustained by the intercession not only of our patron saints, but by the array of martyrs from every age, who 'despite the tragedy of our divisions… have preserved an attachment to Christ and to the Father so radical and absolute as to lead even to the shedding of blood'.”
The message was conveyed by a Holy See delegation to Istanbul to celebrate the feast of St. Andrew, who founded the see. The delegation was led by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and it took part in a Divine Liturgy celebrated by Patriarch Bartholomew.
A similar visit to Rome is made annually by an Eastern Orthodox delegation for the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul.
Pope Francis wrote in his message that the “strong commitment to re–establishing the unity of Christians” confirmed at the Pan-Orthodox Council in June “is for Catholics a source of real encouragement.”
He recalled that Bartholomew “has always remained conscious of existing difficulties to unity and has never tired of supporting initiatives which foster encounter and dialogue,” but added that “the history of relations between Christians, however, has sadly been marked by conflicts that have left a deep impression on the memory of the faithful. For this reason, some cling to attitudes of the past.”
The Pope emphasized that “only prayer, common good works and dialogue can enable us to overcome division and grow closer to one another.”