05/23/2014, 00.00
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Bartholomew I with Pope Francis in Jerusalem to bear witness to a globalised and broken world

by Nat da Polis
"We need shared responses, without confessional distinctions, to meet the challenges and tragedies that affect the whole Christian world," the Ecumenical Patriarch told AsiaNews. When Athenagoras travelled to Constantinople for his inauguration, he asked to fly over the Vatican. Nicaea was the first "truly ecumenical" council, whose 1,700th anniversary will be marked in 2025. Bartholomew calls on Christians to meet then "to celebrate the undivided Church."

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - On 25 May, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I will meet in Jerusalem to commemorate and relive the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras.

The 1964 historic meeting brought to an end disagreements and differences between the two Churches, caused not by issues of dogma or affiliation, but by matters of power.

The division, which began essentially with the schism of 1054, became real in 1202-1204 for geopolitical reasons, i.e. the infamous Fourth Crusade.

The 1964 meeting took place in a bipolar geopolitical context, which allowed the two sister Churches to reconcile and later withdraw their reciprocal excommunications and anathemas. It also started a dialogue for the much desired unity and communion between Orthodox and Catholics.

This Sunday's meeting, which Bartholomew suggested when he attended Pope Francis' investiture (a first for an ecumenical patriarch) was immediately accepted.

It is also very important for another reason. In fact, the meeting is meant as a call to all Christians to give "a common response to humanity, which is living in an individualistic and hedonistic society, where social coexistence is shattered - the victim of an economically globalised but morally broken world".

"Only a Christian world that is united can give an answer to the existential crisis affecting the contemporary world, which is globalised only from a material standpoint," Bartholomew told AsiaNews. In order to achieve this, "there is but one means - dialogue - that we Christians can offer according to the dictates and will of our Lord."

For his part, the Metropolitan of Pergamon Ioannis Zizoulas noted that when Athenagoras travelled to Constantinople for his investiture as ecumenical patriarch, he flew on Air Force One, courtesy of then US President Truman. During the flight, he asked the pilot to fly over the Vatican as a token of friendship and longing.

The meeting on 25 May has another special connotation. It takes place in the Middle East, at a time when Christians are being persecuted regardless of their religious beliefs.

"It shows," Bartholomew added, "that the answers must be shared. Every war in the name of religion is a war against religion."

Sunday's meeting comes a decade before 2025, when the first truly ecumenical council was held 1,700 years ago in Nicaea.

In view of this, Bartholomew is hopeful that all Christians will then come together to remember the very first ecumenical council of the undivided Church.

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