By Robin Gomes
Despite differences between Catholics and Orthodox Christians, Pope Francis said the two communities are called to be a sign of hope by working together for peace, human dignity and care of creation.
“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,” the Pope said in a message to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople on the occasion of the November 30 feast of St. Andrew, the patron of the Patriarchate based in Istanbul, Turkey.
The Pope’s message was read Friday morning by Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, at a Divine Liturgy at the Patriarchate in Istanbul, Turkey on the feast of St. Andrew.
The cardinal headed a Vatican delegation to the celebration to reciprocate a visit from the Patriarchate to Rome on the June 29 feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the patrons of the eternal city.
Division and communion
In the first major division among the followers of Christ, the Byzantine Church based in Constantinople (Istanbul today) and the Rome-based Catholic Church culminated in a bitter split in 1054 known as the Great Schism.
However, since Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope St. Paul VI, in the wake of Vatican Council II, Pope Francis noted the Holy Spirit has enabled them to resume “fraternal dialogue”.
Recalling the progress relations between them over the last fifty years the Pope said they are experiencing communion, even though not full and complete.
Pope Francis said, “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.”
He recalled Patriarch Bartholomew’s participation along with other Church leaders and representatives in the day of prayer and reflection for peace in the Middle East, held on 7 July in Bari, southern Italy. “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,” the Pope said
“In a world wounded by conflict, the unity of Christians is a sign of hope that must radiate ever more visibly,” Pope Francis said.