By Devin Watkins
Following a long-standing custom, the Holy See sent a delegation to Istanbul to celebrate the feast of Saint Andrew, the patron saint of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, on November 30th.
The delegation – led by Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity – participated in the Divine Liturgy in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George.
Desire for full communion
Cardinal Koch handed Patriarch Bartholomew a letter from Pope Francis, in which the Pope expressed his spiritual closeness. The letter was read out publicly at the end of the Divine Liturgy.
“I convey the assurance of the unwavering intention of the Catholic Church, as well as my own,” said the Pope, “to continue in our commitment to working towards the re-establishment of full communion among the Christians of the East and the West.”
Pope Francis noted that 2019 marks the 40th anniversary since the foundation of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
He expressed his gratitude for all those who have worked toward re-establishing full communion.
“The search for the re-establishment of full communion among Catholics and Orthodox is certainly not confined to theological dialogue, but is also accomplished through other channels of ecclesial life,” he said.
Evangelizing and charitable works
The Patriarchate of Constantinople also sends a delegation to Rome every year on June 29th, to mark the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.
These reciprocal delegations, said the Pope, represent “authentic gestures of mutual respect and esteem”, and show a “shared fidelity to the word of our one Lord Jesus Christ, and the will to remain together in His love.”
Pope Francis added that proclaiming the Gospel and working together to carry out charitable works in favor of the poor are signs of the two Churches’ mature relationship.
“The Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church,” he said, “have already embarked upon this promising journey, as testified by our joint initiatives.”
And he urged Catholics and Orthodox faithful to strengthen “the daily dialogue of love and life” by praying and working together in harmony.
Finally, Pope Francis wished Patriarch Bartholomew a blessed feast of Saint Andrew, and praised their shared friendship.
“Beloved brother in Christ, to whom I am bound by a sincere and fraternal friendship,” said the Pope, “these are just some of the hopes and sentiments that fill my heart and that I wish to share with you on this joyous occasion.”