Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew embrace during a meeting in Rome in September Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew embrace during a meeting in Rome in September  (Vatican Media)

Pope sends greetings to Ecumenical Patriarch on feast of St. Andrew

In his traditional greetings to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the occasion of the feast of Saint Andrew, the patron of Constantinople, Pope Francis highlights the historic meeting of Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in 1964, and prays that Sts Peter and Andrew might obtain for us the gifts of fraternal communion and peace.

By Christopher Wells

Sixty years ago, Paul VI and Athenagoras met together in Jerusalem, the first such meeting between a Pope and an Ecumenical Patriarch in more than a thousand years.

“That encounter was a vital step forward in breaking down the barrier of misunderstanding, distrust and even hostility that had existed for almost a millennium,” writes Pope Francis, in his annual greetings to the current Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I.

The Pope continues, saying, “It is noteworthy that today we remember not so much the words and statements of those two prophetic Pastors, but above all their warm embrace.”

Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras with Pope Paul VI
Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras with Pope Paul VI

He says their example shows “that all authentic paths to the restoration of full communion among the Lord’s disciples are characterized by personal contact and time spent together.”

At the same time, “friendly dialogue, common prayer and joint action in service to humanity” can similarly contribute to overcoming the differences between Christ’s disciples.”

Pope Francis recalls that, “with God’s help,” he and Bartholomew have been able to follow in the footsteps of their “Venerable Predecessors.” In particular, the Pope expresses his gratitude for the Patriarch’s participation in the Ecumenical Prayer Vigil ahead of the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October, and the participation of a fraternal delegate from Constantinople in the work of the Assembly.

The Pope concludes his letter with an invitation to “fervently pray to God, our merciful Father, that the clamour of arms, which brings only death and destruction, may cease, and that government and religious leaders may always seek the path of dialogue and reconciliation.”

“May the Holy Apostles Peter and Andrew intercede for all peoples and obtain for them the gifts of fraternal communion and peace.”

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30 November 2023, 12:48