Vatican City (AsiaNews)
- The ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople has invited Pope Francis to travel
with him to the Holy Land next year to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the
embrace between Patriarch Athenagoras and Paul VI, the pioneers of Catholic-Orthodox
dialogue. During their private meeting, Bartholomew and Francis explored possible
paths towards unity, including theological dialogue, environmental defence, and
a visit to the Fanar, after going through proper diplomatic channels.
Earlier, when the
pontiff met Christian and other religious leaders, Bartholomew I was the only one
who addressed Pope Francis. For the patriarch, Christians must bear witness in
a credible way through "Church unity" in order to cope with the world's
economic crisis and to counter "worldly trends" that limit life to its earthly
horizons. Bartholomew's words reflect the pontiff's notion of stewardship,
which he presented yesterday during his inaugural mass.
All this is evidence of
the great unity between the two leaders. When Pope Francis introduced the
patriarch, he called him, off the cuffs, "my brother Andrew" underscoring the
blood ties between the two apostles patrons of the two Churches, Andrew of
Constantinople and Peter of Rome, the "first one to be called" and the "first one
among the apostles".
Like Francis, Bartholomew
referred to Benedict XVI "as a mild man who distinguished himself by his
theological knowledge and charity."
When he spoke about the
"task and huge responsibilities" that await the pope, he said that "the unity
of Christian Churches" was "the first and most important of our concerns" in
order to ensure that "our Christian witness is seen to be credible near and
far." Hence, it is necessary to continue "the theological dialogue" between
Catholics and Orthodox, based on the experience and tradition of the first undivided
The world's economic
crisis is another "imperative," requiring that "those who have more give more"
so that "justice can ensure peace".
The pope, Bartholomew said,
has a "long and valued ministry as a Good Samaritan in Latin America. [. . .] Like
few others, he has known the bitterness and suffering of human misery."
Echoing what Pope Francis
said yesterday in his homily, Bartholomew also noted that "We have a duty to
feed the hungry, clothe the naked, cure the sick".
The patriarch went on
to praise the pope for "his choice of simplicity," a necessity if we want to
correct the "worldly notions" that have emerged among Christians and others
that weaken the notions of justice, mercy and cooperation among men by
encouraging them to remain too attached to the earthly things.
"The Church," said Bartholomew,
"blesses earthly life but does not limit its mission to it." We must correct "worldly
notions" so that man can return to the "original beauty, that of charity."