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A Common Path – Pope Francis Reflects

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A Common Path – Pope Francis Reflects

It is with sentiments of heartfelt closeness that I join all those who celebrate, with joy
and jubilation, the twenty-fifth anniversary this year of the election of His
All-Holiness Bartholomew I as ecumenical patriarch.

My first meeting with my beloved brother Bartholomew took place on the very day of the
inauguration of my papal ministry, when he honored me with his presence in
Rome. I felt that I was meeting a man who “€œwalks by faith”€ (cf. 2 Corinthians
5:7), who in his person and his manner expresses all the profound human and
spiritual experience of the Orthodox tradition. On that occasion we embraced
each other with sincere affection and mutual understanding. Our successive
meetings in Jerusalem, Rome, and Constantinople have not only strengthened our spiritual affinity, but above all have deepened our shared consciousness of the common
pastoral responsibility we have at this point in history, before the urgent
challenges that Christians and the entire human family face today. In
particular I hold dear to my heart the splendid memory of the warm and
fraternal welcome extended to me by Patriarch Bartholomew during my visit to
the Phanar for the Feast of the Apostle Andrew, patron saint of the Ecumenical
Patriarchate, on November 30, 2014.

The Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople are united by a profound and long-standing bond, which not even centuries of silence and misunderstanding have been able to sever. This bond is exemplified by the relationship between those to whom
tradition attributes the foundation of our respective Churches, namely, the
holy apostles Peter and Andrew, two brothers in the flesh, but above all, two
disciples of the Lord Jesus, who together believed in him, followed him, and
ultimately shared his destiny on the cross, in the one and same hope of serving
the coming of his kingdom. Our predecessors, the illustrious Athenagoras I and
Blessed Paul VI, have left us the sacred task of tracing our way back along the
path that paved the separation of our Churches, healing the sources of our
mutual alienation, and moving toward the reestablishment of full communion in
faith and love, mindful of our legitimate differences, just as it was in the
first millennium. Today we, brothers in the faith and in the hope that does not
fail, are profoundly united in our desire that Christians of East and West may
feel themselves part of the one and only Church, so that they may proclaim to
the whole world that “€œthe grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us
to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and
devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory
of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ”€ (Titus 2:11″€“13 nab).

In the two joint declarations we signed in Jerusalem and at the Phanar, we affirmed decisively and determinedly our shared commitment, drawn from our faithfulness to the
Gospel, to build a world that is more just and more respectful of every
person”€™s fundamental dignity and freedoms, the most important of which is
religious freedom. We are also fundamentally joined in our shared commitment to
raising further the awareness of individuals and wider society regarding the
issue of the safeguarding of creation, the cosmic scenario in which God”€™s
infinite mercy”€”offered, rejected, and restored”€”is manifested and glorified in
every moment. I am deeply grateful for the leadership of the ecumenical
patriarch in this field and for his reflections on this issue, from which I
have learned and continue to learn so much.

I have found a profound spiritual sensitivity in Patriarch Bartholomew toward the painful condition of humanity today, so profoundly wounded by unspeakable violence,
injustice, and discrimination. We are both greatly disturbed by the grave sin
against God, which seems to increase day by day, that is the globalization of
indifference toward the defacement of the image of God in man. It is our
conviction that we are called to work toward the construction of a new
civilization of love and solidarity. We are both aware that the voices of our
brothers and sisters, now to the point of extreme distress, compel us to
proceed more rapidly along the path of reconciliation and communion between
Catholics and Orthodox, precisely so that they may be able to proclaim credibly
the Gospel of Peace that comes from Christ.

For these many reasons I am very happy that the twenty-fifth anniversary of the election of my friend and brother Bartholomew as patriarch of the ancient and glorious See of
Constantinople is being celebrated by so many who give thanks to the Lord for
his life and ministry. I consider it to be both a grace and a privilege to walk
together with Patriarch Bartholomew in the hope of serving our one Lord Jesus
Christ, counting not upon our meager strengths, but on the faithfulness of God,
and sustained by the intercession of the saintly brothers, the apostles Andrew
and Peter.

It is in this certainty and with an unfailing remembrance in prayer that I express to His
All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew my heartfelt and fraternal good wishes for a
long life in the love and consolation of the Triune and One God.

Pope Francis


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