During his meeting with the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Francis renewed his appeal to "those who govern the world’s political and economic life to promote a peaceful coexistence based on reciprocal respect and reconciliation, mutual forgiveness and solidarity.”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis used the visit this morning in the Vatican of Patriarch Abuna Matthias, head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, to stress the importance and urgent need for Christian unity, in particular, between Catholics and Orthodox.
The pontiff said that he hoped to see “the blood of the many martyrs of all the Churches,” victims of "a devastating outbreak of violence against Christians and other minorities in the Middle East and in some parts of Africa,” become “the seed of Christian unity”. Indeed, “Shared sufferings,” the pope said, “have enabled Christians, otherwise divided in so many ways, to grow closer to one another.”
The Holy Father also appealed to “those who govern the world’s political and economic life to promote a peaceful coexistence based on reciprocal respect and reconciliation, mutual forgiveness and solidarity.”
“From 2004 on,” Francis said, “the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches have worked together to deepen their communion through the theological dialogue advanced by the Joint International Commission. We are happy to note the increasing participation of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in this dialogue. Over the years, the Commission has examined the fundamental concept of the Church as communion, understood as participation in the communion between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In this way, we have come to see that we have almost everything in common: one faith, one Baptism, one Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. We are united by virtue of our Baptism, which has made us members of the one Body of Christ. We are also united by the various common elements of our rich monastic traditions and liturgical practices. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. As has often been observed, what unites us is greater than what divides us.”
“We truly feel that the words of the Apostle Paul apply to us: “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together” (1 Cor 12:26). Shared sufferings have enabled Christians, otherwise divided in so many ways, to grow closer to one another. Just as in the early Church the shedding of the blood of martyrs became the seed of new Christians, so today the blood of the many martyrs of all the Churches has become the seed of Christian unity. The martyrs and saints of all the ecclesial traditions are already one in Christ. Their names are inscribed in the one martyrologium of the Church of God. The ecumenism of the martyrs is a summons to us, here and now, to advance on the path to ever greater unity.”
“From the beginning, yours has been a Church of martyrs. Today too, you are witnessing a devastating outbreak of violence against Christians and other minorities in the Middle East and in some parts of Africa. We cannot fail, yet again, to implore those who govern the world’s political and economic life to promote a peaceful coexistence based on reciprocal respect and reconciliation, mutual forgiveness and solidarity.”
The pope also highlighted the "fraternal bonds already uniting our Churches ", marked by the visits of Patriarch Abuna Paulos to John Paul II in 1993 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. It was Benedict XVI who invited him in October of that year as a special guest to address the second Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, and talk about the situation of the African continent and the challenges faced by African peoples.
“In the early Church,” Francis said, “it was common practice that one Church would send representatives to the synods of other Churches. This sense of ecclesial sharing was evident also in 2012, on the occasion of the funeral of His Holiness Abuna Paulos, at which a delegation of the Holy See was present.”
“Your country,” he added, “is making great strides to improve the living conditions of its people and to build an ever more just society, based on the rule of law and respect for the role of women. I think in particular of the problem of access to water, with its grave social and economic repercussions. There is great room for cooperation between the Churches in the service of the common good and the protection of creation. I am certain of the readiness of the Catholic Church in Ethiopia to work together with the Orthodox Tewahedo Church over which Your Holiness presides.
Your Holiness, dear brothers and sisters, it is my fervent hope that this meeting will mark a new chapter of fraternal friendship between our Churches. We are conscious that history has left us with a burden of painful misunderstandings and mistrust, and for this we seek God’s pardon and healing. Let us pray for one another, invoking the protection of the martyrs and saints upon all the faithful entrusted to our pastoral care. May the Holy Spirit continue to enlighten us and guide our steps towards harmony and peace. May he nourish in us the hope that one day, with God’s help, we will be united around the altar of Christ’s sacrifice in the fullness of Eucharistic communion.