Pope Francis expresses his spiritual closeness to Patriarch Bartholomew in a letter for the feast of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, celebrated on 30 November, the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle. Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, led a Holy See delegation to Istanbul for the occasion.
By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
The president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, led the delegation of the Holy See to Istanbul for the feast of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, celebrated on 30 November, the liturgical feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle.
The Cardinal was accompanied by Bishops Brian Farrell and Andrea Palmieri, Secretary and Undersecretary of the Dicastery. In Istanbul, the delegation was joined by Msgr. Walter Erbi, Chargé d’affaires at the Apostolic Nunciature in Turkey.
A Tuesday statement from the Holy See Press Office said that the delegation took part in the solemn Divine Liturgy presided over by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George at Phanar.
Cardinal Koch also presented the Ecumenical Patriarch an autographed message from Pope Francis, which he publicly read at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy.
The Pope’s message
In the message, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the Ecumenical Patriarch on the occasion of the feast of Apostle Andrew, the “first-called and brother of the Apostle Peter, and patron saint of the Church of Constantinople and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”
The Holy Father also highlighted the fraternal friendship and the “ancient and profound bond of faith and charity between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople” and assured them of his spiritual closeness through the delegation he sent to convey his “good wishes for joy and peace” to the bishops, clergy, monks and lay faithful gathered for the Divine Liturgy.
Working together despite differences
Pope Francis recalled that during Patriarch Bartholomew’s recent visit to Rome, they were able to share their concerns regarding the present and future of our world and to express their shared commitment to addressing issues of crucial significance to the human family, including the care of creation, the education of future generations, interreligious dialogue and the pursuit of peace.
In this way, the Pope noted, “we as Pastors, together with our Churches, strengthen the profound bond that already unites us, since our common responsibility in the face of current challenges flows from our shared faith in God” who “harmonizes differences without abolishing them”.
He urged that united in this faith, we should “seek with determination to make visible our communion” in spite of theological and ecclesiological questions that may remain, and encouraged Catholics and Orthodox to increasingly work together “in those areas in which it is not only possible, but indeed imperative that we do so.”
Full unity, a gift from God
The Pope noted that while we continue along the path towards full communion between the Churches, “we are sustained by the intercession of the holy brothers Peter and Andrew, our Patron saints”.
He said that “the full unity for which we yearn is, of course, a gift of God, through the grace of the Holy Spirit,” and prayed that Our Lord may help us to be ready through prayer, interior conversion and openness to seeking and offering pardon.
Concluding his message, the Pope reiterated his heartfelt sentiments and good wishes for the feast of Saint Andrew.
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