High on the agenda of Pope Francis is the quest for Christian Unity, particularly with the Orthodox Church with which we share so much: “Although these Churches are separated from us, they possess true sacraments above all –by apostolic succession – the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are still joined to us in a very close relationship.” (Decree on Ecumenism Par.15)
One demonstration of this unusual relationship and mutual respect is the annual exchange of visits by delegations from the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch on the patronal feasts of each tradition. In keeping with this custom a delegation representing Patriarch Bartholomew I visited Rome from June 27 to June 29, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
In receiving the delegation on Friday, the Holy Father remarked: “Your presence is the sign of the profound bond that unites the Church of Constantinople with the Church of Rome in faith, in hope and in charity,” emphasizing that their “fraternal gathering is an essential part of the journey towards unity.”
“The search for unity among Christians is an urgent task,” the Pope continued, “You have said that ‘it is not a luxury, but an imperative’ from which, today more than ever, we cannot prescind.” Emphasizing that dialogue cannot mean theological minimalizing, but is based on a deepening of the truth, he said “It comforts me knowing that Catholics and Orthodox share he same conception of dialogue that “leads us, under the guidance of the Spirit of truth, to the whole truth.”
The visit will conclude on June 29 with a Eucharist presided over by the Pope calling on Sts. Peter and Paul, patrons of the Church of Rome, and the Apostle Andrew, patron of the Church of Constantinople to intercede “for our faithful and for the needs of the whole world, especially for the poor, the suffering and those who are unjustly persecuted for their faith.”
We must pray and work for Christian unity because of Jesus’ prayer “that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” (John 17:21)
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