A month later Pope Francis met with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill Feb. 12 while on his way to Mexico, marking the first-ever meeting between a Pope and a Patriarch of Moscow.
The two signed a joint-declaration that focused at length on anti-Christian persecution, the threat of secularism to religious freedom and the Christian roots of Europe. While many, Greek Catholics in particular, weren't happy with how the document handled the Ukraine crisis, for others it was a decent start to a nuanced yet positive process.
In March Pope Francis put this desire for interfaith unity into action by washing the feet of 12 migrants during his Holy Thursday Mass at a refugee welcome center on the outskirts of Rome. The migrants belonged to different faiths, and included Muslims, Christians and one Hindu.
April marked not only the Pope's daytrip to the Greek island of Lesbos where he met with Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople and Orthodox Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and All Greece to draw attention to the migration crisis, but it was also the month Francis met with the head of the Society of Saint Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay.
After what has been a lengthy and at many times tumultuous process of dialogue between the SSPX and the Vatican to restore ties, recent steps have suggested a warming in relations.
Among these steps was Pope Francis' decision in September 2015 to allow SSPX priests to validly hear confessions during the Jubilee – a mandate he has indefinitely extended – as well as his decision that year to send a cardinal and three bishops to visit the seminaries of the SSPX in order to become better acquainted with the society, and to discuss doctrinal and theological topics in a less formal context.
These moves culminated in the Pope's meeting with Fellay in April 2016, during which "it was decided that the current exchanges would continue," a statement from the Vatican describing the meeting read.
While the canonical status of the society was not directly addressed, the Pope and Bishop Fellay determined "that these exchanges ought to continue without haste."
In May Pope Francis made what many viewed as a quantum leap in terms of Catholic-Muslim relations when he welcomed the rector of Egypt's prestigious al-Azhar University, Imam Ahmen al-Tayyeb, to the Vatican for a private audience.
Relations were strained under Benedict in 2011 with claims he had "interfered" in Egypt's affairs by condemning a bomb attack on a church, but they made a dramatic shift after Francis and Al-Tayyeb's meeting. Following their May 2016 encounter, it was announced in October that the university and the Vatican will officially resume dialogue toward the end of April 2017.
In June Pope Francis traveled Armenia for a trip largely made to commemorate the centenary of the Armenian Genocide and support the country's Christian majority. During his visit the Pope met with Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, speaking to him of their brotherhood and placing a strong emphasis on unity.
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At an ecumenical meeting with Armenian Orthodox leaders the day before his audience with the Patriarch, Francis prayed that they would "race toward our full communion" with determination.
As if the events of the first half of the year weren't enough, after popping over to Poland for WYD in July, Francis made a quick visit to Assisi at the beginning of August to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the dedication of the Portiuncula chapel, the site where the Franciscan order began.
During the visit he had a surprise meeting with Mohamed Abdel Qader, the Imam of Perugia and Umbria, who was present with the Pope at the 30th World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi a month later.
Convoked by St. John Paul II in 1986, the gathering brings together representatives of various other religions, both Christian and non-Christian. During the September encounter, Francis was joined by Patriarch Bartholomew, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, as well as Imam Ahmen al-Tayyeb.
At the end of September Pope Francis made his visit to the Caucasus nations of Georgia and Azerbaijan.
While in Georgia, which is a majority Orthodox nation where relations with Catholics have traditionally been tense, the Pope met with Catholicos and Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II, saying unity is necessary and love for God and the Gospel must overcome "the misunderstandings of the past" and the problems of the present and future.