Apostolic Pilgrimage: Meeting of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew with Pope Francis

Welcome to “This Week in Orthodoxy,” the world’s only online video newscast focused on events in the life of the Orthodox Church.

I’m Emmy Louvaris

This week we’ll be featuring the historic Apostolic Pilgrimage of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and His Holiness Pope Francis to Jerusalem commemorating the 50 year anniversary of Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in 1964 which marked the beginning of a new era in the relations between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople.

First, let’s start with some background on how the idea of this meeting was initiated.

The decision to commemorate the 1964 meeting happened in March 2013, by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew who was the first patriarch in documented history to attend the installation of any Bishop of Rome.

During the installation of the new Pontiff, Pope Francis, and in that celebratory environment, the agreement was born in a private meeting between the two global religious leaders.

* Arriving on Friday, May 23rd Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was received by His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem.

* The following day, May 24th, the Patriarch visited Bethlehem to venerate the sacred site of Christ’s Birth and pray with its shrinking Christian population.

We invite all Christians to promote an authentic dialogue with Judaism, Islam, and other religious traditions. Indifference and mutual ignorance can only lead to mistrust and, unfortunately, even conflict.

During his remarks at the Church of the Nativity, His All-Holiness noted:

“You, the youth of Bethlehem, are the hope and the future of your homeland. Remain faithful to your historical mission and preserve un-extinguished the flame of our Orthodox faith in this land, where the Lord initiated His work of salvation for the whole world. Your presence here as Orthodox Christians is of immense importance. Continue your work with the same passion. May God be with you!”

On Sunday, May 25, 2014, the worldwide heads of the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches signed a Joint Declaration in the Old City of Jerusalem, affirming their commitment to and anticipation of full sacramental unity in obedience to the commandment of Jesus Christ that His “disciples may be one.”

They also expressed their profound concern for the plight of Christians in the Middle East and reaffirmed their fervent commitment to respect and protect God’s creation. Finally, they underlined the importance of dialogue among the world’s religions.

After the Joint Declaration was signed, the two global Christian leaders proceeded to the Church of the Resurrection, where they venerated the Holy Sepulcher, the Tomb of Christ. Following some private moments, they offered an ecumenical prayer of thanksgiving, which was attended by other local Christian leaders and faithful from all over the world.

The prayer service at the Holy Sepulcher was carried live on EWTN worldwide television with commentary in English, French, Portugese, Spanish, and German. Our own Executive Director, Fr. Christopher Metropulos, was part of the Patriarchal Support Staff and gave the English Commentary from Radio Vaticana in Rome, Italy. He then traveled with the delegation in Jerusalem for the remainder of the meetings.

On May 26, the Patriarch and the Pontiff met for the third and final time during their joint pilgrimage to Jerusalem that marked the conclusion of a historical pilgrimage and fraternal encounter.

The two conferred on many issues, including ecumenical dialogue, environmental ethics, interfaith relations, and religious freedom and human rights. They sealed their pilgrimage and fraternal exchange by reaffirming their commitment to advance peace, dialogue, and mutual understanding among all people of the world.

*On the same day, Patriarch Bartholomew was invited to plant an olive tree in the Grove of Nations on Mt. Herzel in Jerusalem. Usually restricted to Presidents and Prime Ministers and high-level officials, the planting was an honor afforded to the Ecumenical Patriarch and an acknowledgement of his environmental initiatives.

On May 27th, the Patriarch visited the Yad Vashem Memorial Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem and participated in a memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance in which he rekindled the eternal flame and laid a wreath in memory at the crypt containing ashes of victims brought to Israel from the extermination camps.

In his brief statement, His All-Holiness said:

Already 70 years have come and gone, and for some, the Holocaust seems to be a story from the distant past. Yet, we still have not completely healed. What is more tragic is that we have not fully comprehended the lessons of this singular event in world history . . . We condemn every act of terrorism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia. We must publicly profess that a crime against believers of any faith is an abomination in the face of God.

Afterward, His All-Holiness was received by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and later met with Shimon Peres Israel’s President. He then traveled to Ramallah to visit President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian National Authority.

In his conversation with all three political leaders, His All-Holiness stated:

We were delighted that both President Peres and President Abbas accepted the invitation of our brother, Pope Francis, to visit the Vatican in order to reflect on a peace initiative. We assure you that our wholehearted prayers will accompany them in their travels and their deliberations.

And with the completion of these meetings, so concluded this historic event confirming the ongoing commitment to the path of reconciliation between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

And that’s it for a special edition of the “This Week in Orthodoxy.” For everyone here at the OCN studios, I’m Emmy Louvaris. Let’s go Forth in Peace.

Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network.  You can find the Orthodox Christian Network on Google+.

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