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Patriarch Bartholomew: message to Pope Francis, Sister Churches joined in the martyrs’ blood

Sister Churches, joined in the martyrs’ blood, still witnesses of “new forms of persecution and oppression”. One of the strongest passages of the long message that the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, sent to Pope Francis for the Day of the patron saints, Peter and Paul, which will be attended, as usual, by a delegation from Fanar, is about the martyrs of the world’s persecuted and oppressed churches. The message was given this morning to the Pope by the archbishop, Job of Telmessos, co-president of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. “Over the last few years – Bartholomew writes –, we have painfully witnessed the attacks that targeted Christians and places of worship. Our sister churches sympathise with all the persecuted and oppressed Christians of our time and of this time”. In the message, received by SIR, the Patriarch goes over the journey taken in Egypt in April with Pope Francis to pray together for “unity, peace and justice” and to show sympathy to the Coptic Orthodox community of the country. Bartholomew recalls what had been stated at the International Peace Conference that was held at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, insisting that “there can never be any violence or any justification for terrorism in the name of religion”. The Patriarch points out that, along with the Pope, the Christian leaders cried out that “violence is the denial of all beliefs and all religious doctrines”. Nowadays, men ask religions to be open and supportive. The purpose of interreligious dialogue is to “overcome all fundamentalisms and prove that religions can and should be used to build bridges among people, be instrumental to peace and mutual understanding, respect every human being”. In a world that is sorely tried by these challenges, the importance for the Christian Churches to be stronger and work to achieve a full communion, by committing themselves to the “dialogue of love” and “truth”, comes out clear. Hence the Patriarch’s wish for the new efforts that await the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, which will meet in Leros, Greece, in September, that it may be “fruitful” and may help bring the Churches closer to unity.

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