Vatican City, May 11, 2018 / 11:08 am
In a meeting with the leader of the Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church Friday, Pope Francis recalled two of the saints the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches have in common – Sts. Cyril and Methodius – remarking on the holiness both Churches have inherited.
The Bishop of Rome noted that according to tradition, Sts. Cyril and Methodius, the great evangelists of eastern Europe in the ninth century, brought relics of St. Clement, one of the first successors of St. Peter, to Adrian II.
This gesture “reminds us Christians that we have inherited – and we continually need to share – an immense common heritage of holiness,” Francis said in a May 11 meeting with Metropolitan Rastislav, the Eastern Orthodox Archbishop of Prešov.
The Orthodox bishop celebrated Divine Liturgy at the tomb of St. Cyril in the Basilica of San Clemente al Laterno before his visit with Francis.
There have been many witnesses and countless martyrs who have “professed fidelity to Jesus,” over the centuries, including St. Clement, the Bishop of Rome said. But even in recent times, there have been martyrs, such as when atheistic persecution affected Czechoslovakia.
“Even today the sufferings of many brothers and sisters, persecuted because of the Gospel, are an urgent appeal, which challenges us to seek greater unity,” he continued, asking that the example of Sts. Cyril and Methodius would help Christians “to enhance this heritage of holiness that already unites us!”
Francis noted how the two saints, sometimes called the “Apostles of the Slavs,” also succeeded in overcoming divisions between Christian communities of different cultures and traditions, acting as, in the words of St. John Paul II, “authentic precursors of ecumenism.”
“May the witness of Saints Cyril and Methodius accompany us on the journey towards full unity, encouraging us to live this diversity in communion and to never be discouraged in our journey, which we are called to do by the Lord's will and with joy,” the Bishop of Rome said.