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CATHOLIC SAN FANCISCO — Orthodox, Catholic Parishioners Pray for Peace
by Valerie Schmalz
“Christians are being persecuted and killed in countries from Lebanon to Sudan,” Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Gerasimos told a gathering of Catholics and Greek Orthodox at a Belmont Catholic church Jan. 18.
Members of neighboring parishes, Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross and Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church continued their tradition of praying together – this time for the beginning of the international Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, praying for Christian unity but especially for persecuted Christians in the Middle East and Africa who are suffering and dying for their faith.
San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone invited Metropolitan Gerasimos to deliver the homily at the evening vespers. The two parishes have a tradition of cooperation that goes back decades and this coming Lent will be the ninth year that they have joined together in prayer.
“Fifty years ago it was unthinkable. Today it is almost routine” to gather to “pray together for the peace of the world,” Metropolitan Gerasimos said.
“We share so much in common,” Archbishop Cordileone said, thanking Metropolitan Gerasimos for “a powerful reminder of the serious situation Christians are facing around the world.”
“Christians need to stand together, most especially Christians in the apostolic churches,” Archbishop Cordileone said, noting both churches trace their roots directly to the Apostles. St. Andrew, the brother of St. Peter, founded the church in Constantinople. The Greek Orthodox Church does not accept the authority of the pope, but the Catholic and Orthodox churches recognize each other’s sacraments, and share a profound devotion to Mary, the mother of God.
The vespers was the second prayer service in less than a year that featured the leaders of the local Catholic and Orthodox churches. In April, Archbishop Cordileone was invited to give the homily at the Orthodox Service of Salutation to the Holy Cross as all prayed for the upcoming meeting last May in Jerusalem of Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis. The Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross has a fragment of the true cross.