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Pope Francis: message to Bartholomew, “promote joint initiatives” between Catholics and Orthodox on Creation and peace

“It is my fervent hope that Catholics and Orthodox may promote joint initiatives at the local level with regard to these issues, for there are many contexts in which Orthodox and Catholics can already work together without waiting for the day of full and visible communion”. Pope Francis expressed this hope at the end of his message, which he gave to the Holy See Delegation led by Card. Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, for the feast of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in the context of the traditional exchange of delegations for the respective feasts of the Patron Saints: 29 June in Rome for the celebration of Sts Peter and Paul, and 30 November in Istanbul for the celebration of St Andrew. “Though away from Rome”, Pope Francis wrote in his message to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew referring to his visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh, “I wish to extend my fraternal best wishes to Your Holiness and to the members of the Holy Synod, the clergy, the monks, and all the faithful gathered for the Divine Liturgy” for the liturgical commemoration of Saint Andrew the Apostle. “Catholics and Orthodox, by professing together the dogmas of the first seven Ecumenical Councils, by believing in the efficacy of the Eucharist and the other sacraments, and by preserving the apostolic succession of the ministry of bishops, experience already a profound closeness with one another”, the Pope pointed out, expressing the hope that together we may “recognize how urgent it is to grow towards full and visible communion”. Pope Francis also recalled the fiftieth anniversary of the visit of Pope Paul VI to the Phanar on 25 July 1967, a “historic moment of communion” between the Pastors. Hence the Pontiff cited the timely words spoken by Patriarch Athenagoras on that occasion: “Let us join together what was divided”. “I wish to encourage anew this theological dialogue”, the Pope said, for “the consensus reached by Catholics and Orthodox on certain fundamental theological principles regulating the relationship between primacy and synodality in the life of the Church in the first millennium can serve to evaluate, even critically, some theological categories and practices which evolved during the second millennium in conformity with those principles. Such consensus may enable us to envisage a common way of understanding the exercise of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, in the context of synodality and at the service of the communion of the Church in the present context. This sensitive task needs to be pursued in an atmosphere of mutual openness and, above all, in obedience to the demands that the Holy Spirit makes of the Church”. Pope Francis finally told his “beloved brother in Christ” that in recent months he has been following with great interest the participation of the Orthodox Church in significant international events held throughout the world regarding “the care of creation, peaceful coexistence among peoples of different cultures and religious traditions, and the presence of Christians in the Middle East”. “Your Holiness’s commitment – Pope Francis stressed – is a source of inspiration, support and encouragement for me personally for, as you well know, we share these same concerns”.

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