By Devin Watkins
As Patriarch Bartholomew celebrates 30 years since his election, Pope Francis sent him a congratulatory letter, expressing his best wishes.
“I join you in thanksgiving to the Lord for the many blessings bestowed upon your life and ministry over these years,” said the Pope, “and pray that God, from whom all gifts come, will grant you health, spiritual joy and abundant grace to sustain every aspect of your lofty service.”
The Pope and the Patriarch have met on numerous occasions, even as recently as earlier this month, and share a “profound personal bond”, in the Pope’s own words.
In his letter, Pope Francis recalled Patriarch Bartholomew’s presence at his installation as the Bishop of Rome in March 2013, and said their bond has “become a fraternal friendship”.
“As clearly reflected once again by your participation in events recently held in Rome,” added the Pope, “I share with you the understanding of our common pastoral responsibility in the face of the urgent challenges confronting the entire human family today.”
Commitment to humanity’s future
Pope Francis went on to express his support for Bartholomew’s commitment to safeguarding Creation and the need for humanity’s spiritual renewal.
“With the outbreak of the pandemic and the ensuing grave health, social and economic repercussions, your testimony and teaching on the need for the spiritual conversion of humanity have acquired enduring relevance,” said the Pope.
He also thanked the Ecumenical Patriarch for pursuing the path of “dialogue, in charity and truth, as the only possible way for reconciliation between believers in Christ and for the re-establishment of their full communion.”
“With God’s help,” added Pope Francis, “this is the path along which we will most certainly continue to walk together, for the closeness and solidarity between our Churches are an indispensable contribution to universal brotherhood and social justice, of which humanity is so urgently in need.”
Pope Francis wrapped up his letter to Patriarch Bartholomew expressing his sentiments of “deep fraternal affection” and his spiritual closeness in “a holy embrace in the love of Christ the Lord.”
Bartholomew I was elected as the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople of the Eastern Orthodox Church on 22 October 1991, and installed as the 270th successor to the Apostle Andrew a few days later on 2 November.
He has been on the forefront of issues related to religious freedom, human rights, and ecology, with some calling him “The Green Patriarch”.