Full communion possible for Catholics and Orthodox

Pope Francis is confident Catholics and Orthodox Christians will attain full communion.

In a message to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I on Monday, Francis praised Bartholomew’s efforts to promote Christian unity.

“We can thank God that relations between the Catholic Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate have grown much over the past century, even as we continue to yearn for the goal of the restoration of full communion expressed through participation at the same Eucharistic altar,” he wrote.

“Although obstacles remain, I am confident that by walking together in mutual love and pursuing theological dialogue, we will reach that goal.”

Francis also expressed his hope for full communion “based on our common faith in Jesus Christ, sent by God the Father to gather all people into one body, and the cornerstone of the one and holy Church, God’s holy temple, in which all of us are living stones, each according to our own particular charism or ministry bestowed by the Holy Spirit.”

The pope sends a message to the Patriarch each year on 30 November, which is the Orthodox feast day of St Andrew. The Patriarch is regarded as the successor of St. Andrew the Apostle and is “first among equals” in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

In this week’s message, Francis recalls his most recent meeting with Bartholomew at an international meeting for peace in Rome in October.

“Together with the challenges posed by the current pandemic, war continues to afflict many parts of the world, while new armed conflicts emerge to steal the lives of countless men and women,” he says.

“Undoubtedly all initiatives taken by national and international entities aimed at promoting peace are useful and necessary, yet conflict and violence will never cease until all people reach a deeper awareness that they have a mutual responsibility as brothers and sisters.”

“In light of this, the Christian Churches, together with other religious traditions, have a primary duty to offer an example of dialogue, mutual respect and practical cooperation.”

Bartholomew sought Christian unity “before the Catholic Church and other Churches engaged themselves in dialogue,” Francis’s message continues.

He cites an encyclical letter issued by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1920, which says Churches could heal divisions if they placed love “before everything else in their judgment of the others and in relation towards each other.”

A delegation from the Vatican also made its way to Istanbul for its customary visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the Feast of St. Andrew.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, led the delegation.

The delegates attended a Divine Liturgy presided over by the Bartholomew at St. George’s Cathedral, the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Afterwards, Koch read Francis’s message and presented the Ecumenical Patriarch with a signed copy, which Francis concludes saying:

“With these sentiments, I renew my warmest best wishes for the Feast of St. Andrew, and exchange with Your All Holiness an embrace of peace in the Lord.”


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