Friday, March 15, 2013

Patriarch of Constantinople to attend inauguration of Pope Francis

The significance of this announcement cannot be understated, considering something like this has not happened since 1054.
Istanbul (AsiaNews) - The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I will attend Pope Francis's inaugural Mass. The Ecumenical Patriarchate Press Office informed AsiaNews about the decision, noting that this is the first time such an event occurs since the Catholic-Orthodox split in 1054, an important sign for Christian unity.

The ecumenical patriarch will be accompanied by Ioannis Zizioulas, metropolitan of Pergamon and co-president of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church, as well as Tarassios, Orthodox Metropolitan of Argentina, and Gennadios, Orthodox Metropolitan of Italy.

Relations between Catholics and Orthodox have been improving since the Second Vatican Council through mutual visits, acts of friendship and theological dialogue.

Under Benedict XVI, the dialogue picked up in earnest after a lull. In trying to promote it, the pope suggested ways to express the primacy of Peter's successor that could be acceptable to the Orthodox, finding his inspiration from the undivided Church of the first millennium.

Catholic ecumenism has met however with great resistance from the Russian Orthodox Church and the Moscow Patriarchate, seat of the 'Third Rome'.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church's Department for External Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, said on Thursday that a meeting between the pope and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow was "possible but the place and timing will depend on how quickly we will overcome the consequences of the conflicts from the turn of 1980s and 1990s".

The issue of the Ukrainian Catholic Church is at the core of the "conflicts" to which Hilarion was referring. Although it was unbanned following the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was left without its original churches, which had been seized by the Communists under Soviet rule and later transferred to the Orthodox Church.

Still, "on several occasions, Pope Francis has shown spiritual sympathy towards the Orthodox Church and a desire for closer contacts," Hilarion said.

It is his hope that under the new pontificate "relations of alliance will develop and that our ties will be strengthened."
The new pope's relationship with Anglicans will likely be quite cordial, as he is already a close friend of Bishop Gregory Venables of Buenos Aires, formerly Primate of the Southern Cone. In a Facebook post, Bishop Venables shared his thoughts on Francis.
Many are asking me what Jorge Bergoglio is really like. He is much more of a Christian, Christ centered and Spirit filled, than a mere churchman. He believes the Bible as it is written. I have been with him on many occasions and he always makes me sit next to him and invariably makes me take part and often do what he as Cardinal should have done. He is consistently humble and wise, outstandingly gifted yet a common man. He is no fool and speaks out very quietly yet clearly when necessary. He called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the Ordinariate was quite unnecessary and that the church needs us as Anglicans. I consider this to be an inspired appointment not because he is a close and personal friend but because of who he is In Christ. Pray for him.