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This weekend marks the historic visit of Pope Francis to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople. During his visit with His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Pope is attending an Ecumenical Prayer Service and a Patriarchal Divine Liturgy, both celebrated at the Patriarchal Church of Saint George at the Phanar. Read below the Vatican’s report of a solemn and touching moment between the two leaders as the Pope bows before the Patriarch during the Ecumenical Prayer Service on Saturday evening.
The Pope bows before Bartholomew and receives a blessing from him
During the Ecumenical prayer at the Patriarchal Church of St. George at the Phanar, Francis said: “Our joy is greater because its source is in our shared trust in God’s faithfulness.” Meanwhile, Patriarch Bartholomew called for the intercession of the “holy Fathers, on whose teaching our common faith of the first millennium was founded”
At the end of his speech, Pope Francis asked for Patriarch Bartholomew’s blessing and bowed down before him to receive it. Bartholomew then kissed Francis on the head. And so, the second day of the papal visit concluded with a highly symbolic gesture. Night had already fallen in Istanbul on the eve of the Feast of St. Andrew, Patron Saint of the Orthodox Patriarchate, as Francis entered the Church of St. George with his brother Bartholomew. Their moment of prayer was brief and gave the world a taste of what is to happen tomorrow when the Pope attends the Divine Orthodox Liturgy celebrated by the Ecumenical Patriarch. At the entrance to the church, the Pope venerated a large silver-plated icon.
In his welcoming speech, Bartholomew said Francis “translat[ed] the love of the Chief Apostle (the Apostle Peter, Ed.) to his brother, the First Called Apostle (Andrew).” The Patriarch recalled “similar visits by [His] Eminent predecessors”, quoting Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. He spoke about Francis’ “will” and that of the “most Holy Church of Rome” to continue the fraternal and stable advance with the Orthodox Church for the restoration of full communion between Our Churches”. Bartholomew said he sees Francis’ visit as “an historical event filled with favourable signs for the future”.
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