Pope Francis embraces Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians, at the Vatican March 20. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
In a recent interview with Vatican Insider’s
Andrea Tornielli, Pope Francis talked about Christmas and addressed a
few popular misconceptions about his new exhortation. For example, the
Pope confirmed that Marxism “is wrong”, supported breast-feeding in
public, and said that those who think there will someday be women
Cardinals “suffer from clericalism.”
These snippets you have, no
doubt, already read in the press, but what you may not have seen are the
sections in which Pope Francis reaffirms his commitment to Christian
The Pope draws attention to what he calls an “ecumenism of blood.” Francis reminds us that: “Those
who kill Christians don't ask for your identity card to see which
Church you were baptized in.” The following segments are from Tornielli’s interview:
Is Christian unity a priority for you?
Yes, for me ecumenism is a priority. Today there is an ecumenism of
blood. In some countries they kill Christians for wearing a cross or
having a Bible and before they kill them they do not ask them whether
they are Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic or Orthodox. Their blood is mixed.
To those who kill we are Christians. We are united in blood, even
though we have not yet managed to take necessary steps towards unity
between us and perhaps the time has not yet come. Unity is a gift that
we need to ask for.
I knew a parish priest in Hamburg who was
dealing with the beatification cause of a Catholic priest guillotined by
the Nazis for teaching children the catechism. After him, in the list
of condemned individuals, was a Lutheran pastor who was killed for the
same reason. Their blood was mixed. The parish priest told me he had
gone to the bishop and said to him: "I will continue to deal with the
cause, but both of their causes, not just the Catholic priest's." This
is what ecumenism of blood is. It still exists today; you just need to
read the newspapers. Those who kill Christians don't ask for your
identity card to see which Church you were baptized in. We need to take
these facts into consideration.
This coming January marks the 50th anniversary of Paul VI’s historic visit to the Holy Land. Will you go?
Pope Francis: Christmas
always makes us think of Bethlehem, and Bethlehem is a precise point in
the Holy Land where Jesus lived. On Christmas night, I think above all
with the Christians who live there, of those who are in difficulty, of
the many people who have had to leave that land because of various
problems. But Bethlehem is still Bethlehem. God arrived at a specific
time in a specific land; that is where God’s tenderness and grace
appeared. We cannot think of Christmas without thinking of the Holy
land. Fifty years ago, Paul VI had the courage to go out and go there
and this marked the beginning of the era of papal journeys. I would also
like to go there, to meet my brother Bartholomew, the Patriarch of
Constantinople, and commemorate this 50th anniversary with him, renewing
that embrace which took place between Pope Montini and Athenagoras in
Jerusalem, in 1964. We are preparing for this.
Patriarch Twal of Jerusalem confirmed today
in his Christmas message that in May 2014, Pope Francis plans to visit
Jordan, Israel, and Palestine. This is an historic visit since Pope Paul
VI embraced Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem 50 years ago this
January. Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople will meet him there to
renew their fraternal bonds and discuss the way ahead for Christian
Returning to the interview:
You announced a "conversion of the papacy". Did a specific path emerge from your meetings with the Orthodox Patriarchs?
John Paul II spoke even more explicitly about a way of exercising the
primacy which is open to a new situation. Not just from the point of
view of ecumenical relations but also in terms of relations with the
Curia and the local Churches. Over the course of these first nine
months, I have received visits from many Orthodox brothers: Bartholomew,
Hilarion, the theologian Zizioulas, the Copt Tawadros.
latter is a mystic, he would enter the chapel, remove his shoes and go
and pray. I felt like their brother. They have the apostolic succession;
I received them as brother bishops. It is painful that we are not yet
able to celebrate the Eucharist together, but there is friendship. I
believe that the way forward is this: friendship, common work and prayer
for unity. We blessed each other; one brother blesses the other, one
brother is called Peter and the other Andrew, Mark, Thomas.
Peter and Andrew: Brother Pilgrims to Jerusalem (March 22, 2013)
Building Bridges Between Orthodox and Catholic Christians (May 01, 2013)
Mark and Peter: Coptic Pope Tawadros II visits Pope Francis (May 13, 2013)
“Sister Churches” Revisited (June 12, 2013)