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Pope Francis: to Bartholomew, “unity of Christians is a sign of hope in a world wounded by conflict”

“In a world wounded by conflict, the unity of Christians is a sign of hope that must radiate ever more visibly”. Pope Francis wrote this in a message to Patriarch Bartholomew I on the occasion of the feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, patron saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The message was read out by Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, at the conclusion of the solemn Divine Liturgy presided over by Bartholomew in the patriarchal church of Saint George al Fanar this morning. The cardinal went to Istanbul as the head of the Holy See delegation as part of the traditional exchange of delegations for the respective feasts of the patron saints – on 29 June in Rome for the celebration of Saints Peter and Paul and on 30 November in al Fanar for the celebration of Saint Andrew. “The exchange of delegations between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople, on the occasion of their respective feast days – the Pope wrote -, has become a joyful custom over the years and expresses the profound bond that unites our two Sees. While centuries of mutual misunderstanding, differences and silence may seem to have compromised this relationship, the Holy Spirit, Spirit of unity, has enabled us to recommence a fraternal dialogue”. Dialogue was “definitively resumed” by Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Saint Paul VI, and has enabled us to “rediscover those bonds of communion that have always existed” between our two communities. “Our Churches – Pope Francis recalled – have safeguarded the Apostolic tradition with great care, along with the teaching of the first Ecumenical Councils and the Church Fathers, despite the differences that developed in local traditions and in theological formulations, which need to be more deeply understood and clarified. At the same time both Churches, with a sense of responsibility towards the world, have sensed that urgent call, which involves each of us who have been baptized, to proclaim the Gospel to all men and women. For this reason, we can work together today in the search for peace among peoples, for the abolition of all forms of slavery, for the respect and dignity of every human being and for the care of creation. With God’s help, through encounter and dialogue on our journey together over the last fifty years, we already experience being in communion, even though it is not yet full and complete”. To this end, “the search for the re-establishment of full communion is above all a response to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, who on the eve of His Passion prayed that His disciples ‘may all be one’ (Jn 17:21).   United we give a more effective response to the needs of so many men and women of our own time, especially those who suffer from poverty, hunger, illness and war”. Finally, the Pope expressed his “profound gratitude” to Bartholomew for his presence at the day of prayer and reflection for peace in the Middle East, held last 7 July in Bari, attended by representatives of the Churches from that “deeply troubled area”. “It is a source of great comfort to share with Your Holiness the same concerns for the tragic situation of our brothers and sisters in the region”.

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