Vatican City, Jun 28, 2021 / 10:30 am
Pope Francis told a delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople that the witness of growing communion between Christians would be “a sign of hope for many.”
“Dear brothers, has not the time come for giving further impetus to our efforts, with the help of the Spirit, to break down ancient prejudices and definitively overcome harmful rivalries?” the pope said in the meeting with the Orthodox delegation on June 28.
“Without ignoring the differences that need to be resolved through charitable and truthful dialogue, could we not begin a new phase of relations between our Churches, marked by walking more closely together, by desiring to take real steps forward, by becoming more willing to be truly responsible for one another?” he asked.
The pope underlined that “the witness of growing communion between us Christians will also be a sign of hope for many men and women.”
“This is the only way to the dawn of a future of peace. A fine prophetic sign would be closer cooperation between Orthodox and Catholics in the dialogue with other religious traditions,” Francis said.
The delegation, led by Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon, arrived in Rome ahead of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29.
Each year, the Vatican usually receives a delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew for the celebration of Rome’s Saints Peter and Paul and, in exchange, sends a Roman delegation for a return visit to Istanbul on St. Andrew’s Day, November 30. St. Andrew is the patron of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
In the meeting, Pope Francis said: “This annual exchange of delegations between the Church of Rome and that of Constantinople for the feasts of our respective Patrons is a sign of the communion – real, albeit not yet full – which we already share.”
He told the Orthodox delegation: “If we are docile to love, to the Holy Spirit who is the creative love of God and who brings harmony to diversity, he will open the way to a renewed fraternity.”
Bishop Iosif, the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Buenos Aires, and Deacon Barnabas Grigoriadis were a part of the delegation, which also met with the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.
In an interview with Vatican News, Metropolitan Emmanuel said that “proclaiming the Gospel in the world is not a matter of strategy.”
“I fear that we are thinking more about the survival of Christianity than about sharing the good news of the risen Christ,” he added.
The Orthodox metropolitan also said that “question of the common celebration of Easter gradually imposes itself as an ecumenical issue of the first order.
“For the Orthodox Church, calendar issues remain thorny and history has shown us that they can lead to schism. Even the pre-conciliar pan-Orthodox context was unable to address them without generating polarizing phenomena that were less theological and more properly identity-based,” he explained.
“Celebrating Easter on the same Sunday throughout the Christian world on this conciliar historical basis would be a powerful message of witness and reconciliation.”
Pope Francis asked the delegation to tell Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew that he “joyfully awaits his visit here in Rome next October.”
“Through the intercession of Saints Peter and Paul, Princes of the Apostles, and of Saint Andrew, the First-Called, may Almighty God in his mercy bless us and draw us ever closer to his own unity,” the pope said.