Peter and Andrew: Brother Pilgrims to Jerusalem | Christopher B. Warner | Catholic World Report
Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew continue the 50-year legacy of Catholic-Orthodox dialogue begun by Paul VI and Athenagoras.
Pope Francis met with fraternal delegates of the Orthodox Churches, other Christian churches, and world religions on Wednesday, March 20. These representatives had come to Rome for Francis’ inauguration Mass on Tuesday. Prior to the Wednesday’s meeting, the Holy Father and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople had a 20-minute private conversation. Father Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, said the discussion was both “beautiful and intense.” Over the past week, Francis and Bartholomew have set a foundation for further cooperation and dialogue by reaffirming their joint desire to cooperate as Christian brothers in promoting the stewardship of God’s creation, helping the poor and suffering, and witnessing to life in Christ.
Bridge-building between Catholic and Orthodox Christians has not missed a beat following the papal election. It is well known that Pope Francis served as the ordinary for Eastern Catholics in Argentina so he is very familiar with the liturgical traditions of the East. “He knows our Tradition very well,” says Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, “as well as our Liturgy.” Shevchuk was ordained a bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Buenos Aires in 2009 and has worked closely with the current pope.
When Pope Francis appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica in simple regalia and humble manner, he used gestures and phrases that Eastern Church hierarchs could not fail to notice. He spoke of the Church of Rome as the church “which presides in love” and referred to himself as the bishop of Rome concerned for the Christians of the city of Rome. Referring to Roman primacy as a “primacy of love” harkens back to the famous second-century quote from St. Ignatius of Antioch in his letter to the Roman church. This choice of wording, which describes the Rome episcopate in terms of pre-schism ecclesiology, could not have been a coincidence.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s attendance at the events this week in Rome likely marks the first time ever that a patriarch of Constantinople has been present for the inauguration of a pope. “This is a profoundly bold step in ecumenical relations between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics,” says George E. Demacopoulos, Ph.D., historian for the Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University. “One that could have lasting significance.”