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JERUSALEM – His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and His Holiness Pope Francis crossed a fifty-year milestone today, continuing the legacy of their predecessors Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. In 1964, those leaders broke a silence of centuries and paved the way toward greater dialogue.
Meeting this afternoon at the Apostolic Delegation in the Old City of Jerusalem, the global heads of the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches signed a Joint Declaration affirming their commitment to seek unity between their respective ecclesial bodies. Moreover, they expressed their profound concern for the situation of Christians in the Middle East and for their fundamental right to remain full citizens of their homelands:
We are persuaded that it is not arms, but dialogue, pardon and reconciliation that are the only possible means to achieve peace.
The Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch also reaffirmed their responsibility and obligation to foster a sense of humility and moderation so that all may feel the need to respect creation and to safeguard it with care:
Together, we pledge our commitment to raising awareness about the stewardship of creation; we appeal to all people of goodwill to consider ways of living less wastefully and more frugally, manifesting less greed and more generosity for the protection of God’s world and the benefit of His people.
Finally, the two world leaders underlined the importance of religious understanding and dialogue:
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. (see full text of the Joint Declaration below)
Joint Declaration by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis
1. Like our venerable predecessors Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras who met here in Jerusalem fifty years ago, we too, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, were determined to meet in the Holy Land “where our common Redeemer, Christ our Lord, lived, taught, died, rose again, and ascended into Heaven, whence he sent the Holy Spirit on the infant Church”. Our meeting, another encounter of the Bishops of the Churches of Rome and Constantinople founded respectively by the two Brothers the Apostles Peter and Andrew, is a source of profound spiritual joy for us. It presents a providential occasion to reflect on the depth and the authenticity of our existing bonds, themselves the fruit of a grace-filled journey on which the Lord has guided us since that blessed day of fifty years ago.
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