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Pope Francis: Catholic-Eastern Orthodox dialogue can promote world peace

June 30, 2022 Catholic News Agency 5
Pope Francis meets with a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse, June 30, 2022. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jun 30, 2022 / 09:23 am (CNA).

“Seeking Christian unity is not merely a question internal to the Churches,” he said June 30. “It is an essential condition for the realization of an authentic universal fraternity, manifested in justice and solidarity towards all.”

The pope spoke about the role of ecumenical dialogue in peace-building during a meeting with an Eastern Orthodox delegation at the Vatican.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Christian Unity, also took part in the meeting, which was held in the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse, where Pope Francis lives.

The delegation was sent to Rome by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, and also participated in the pope’s Mass for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29, praying with Pope Francis at the tomb of St. Peter.

Pope Francis and the delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople pray before St. Peter’s tomb, June 29, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis and the delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople pray before St. Peter’s tomb, June 29, 2022. Vatican Media

During the June 30 encounter, the pope emphasized that Christ is the source of peace in the world.

“Christ is our peace,” he said. “By his incarnation, death and resurrection for all, he has torn down the walls of enmity and division between people.”

“Let us start anew from him,” he continued, “and recognize that it is no longer the time to order our ecclesial agendas in accordance with the world’s standards of power and expediency, but in accordance with the Gospel’s bold prophetic message of peace.”

The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church with about 5.3 million members, most of whom are in Greece. Under Bartholomew I’s leadership, which began in 1991, the Church has emphasized ecumenical initiatives and dialogue between Christians.

Francis said “reconciliation among separated Christians, as a means of contributing to peace between peoples in conflict, is a most timely consideration these days, as our world is disrupted by a cruel and senseless war of aggression in which many, many Christians are fighting one another.”

This moment calls for serious reflection, he said, asking, “what kind of world do we want to emerge in the wake of this terrible outbreak of hostilities and conflict? And what contribution are we prepared to make even now towards a more fraternal humanity?”

“As believers, we must necessarily find the answers to these questions in the Gospel: in Jesus, who calls us to be merciful and never violent, to be perfect as the Father is perfect, and not be conformed to the world,” the pope said.

He said Christians should help each other “not to yield to the temptation to muffle the explosive newness of the Gospel with the seductions of this world.”

“Before the scandal of war, in the first place, our concern must not be for talking and discussing, but for weeping, for helping others and for experiencing conversion ourselves,” he said. “We need to weep for the victims and the overwhelming bloodshed, the deaths of so many innocent people, the trauma inflicted on families, cities and an entire people.”

Pope Francis also noted that Christians are obliged to exercise charity toward Christ present in the poor, wounded, and displaced.

“But we also need to experience conversion, and to recognize that armed conquest, expansionism and imperialism have nothing to do with the Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed,” he said.

The pope said it is his hope that theological dialogue between Catholics and Eastern Orthodox “will progress by promoting a new mentality that, conscious of the errors of the past, can help us to look together to the present and future.”

“Let us not be content with an ‘ecclesiastical diplomacy’ that would allow us to politely maintain our own points of view, but instead journey together as brothers,” he added.


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Pope Francis on the feast of Peter and Paul: Care for the vulnerable

June 29, 2022 Catholic News Agency 2
Pope Francis at a Mass for the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul in St. Peter’s Basilica, June 29, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jun 29, 2022 / 10:17 am (CNA).

Pope Francis called Wednesday for Catholics not to retreat into their own groups, but to open the church doors and work together to care for the vulnerable in the world.

“What can we do together, as Church, to make the world in which we live more humane, just and solidarity, more open to God and to fraternity among men? Surely we must not retreat into our ecclesial circles and remain pinned to some of our fruitless debates,” he said at Mass on June 29 for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

“Together we can and must continue to care for human life, the protection of creation, the dignity of work, the problems of families, the treatment of the elderly and all those who are abandoned, rejected or treated with contempt,” he said. “In a word, we are called to be a Church that promotes the culture of care, tenderness and compassion towards the vulnerable.”

During the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis also blessed the pallia for the metropolitan archbishops appointed in the last year. 

Pallia are white woolen vestments adorned with six black silk crosses given to metropolitan archbishops. They symbolize the metropolitan’s authority and unity with the Holy See.

The title of “metropolitan archbishop” refers to the archbishop of a metropolis, which is the primary city of an ecclesiastical province or region.

There were 32 metropolitan archbishops from 24 countries present in Rome to receive their blessed pallium from Pope Francis on June 29.

“In communion with Peter, [the metropolitan archbishops] are called to ‘get up quickly,’ not to sleep, and to serve as vigilant sentinels over the flock,” Francis said. “To get up and ‘fight the good fight,’ never alone, but together with all the holy and faithful people of God.”

Formerly, the new metropolitans would be invested with the pallia by the pope at the same June 29 Mass in which they were blessed, but in 2015 Francis changed this policy to have the bishops be invested with the pallia in their diocese by the local apostolic nuncio.

At the end of Mass on Wednesday, Pope Francis handed each archbishop his pallium in a small box tied with a brown ribbon.

Pope Francis presided over the opening rites of the Mass, with the blessing of the pallia and the Liturgy of the Word. He also delivered the homily and received the offertory gifts. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals, celebrated the second half of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

In his homily, Pope Francis spoke about the Catholic Church’s ongoing synodal path, which is leading up to the Synod on Synodality, which will take place in October 2023.

“The Synod that we are now celebrating calls us to become a Church that gets up, one that is not turned in on itself, but capable of pressing forward, leaving behind its own prisons and setting out to meet the world, with the courage to open doors,” he said. “Let us open the door. The Lord calls.”

The pope said sometimes the Church has open doors, but only to condemn people and send them away. 

“A Church that does not linger in its sacred precincts, but is driven by enthusiasm for the preaching of the Gospel and the desire to encounter and accept everyone. Let us not forget that word: everyone,” he said.

“Go to crossroads and bring everyone, the blind, the deaf, the lame, the sick, the righteous and the sinner: everyone,” he continued. “This word of the Lord should continue to echo in our hearts and minds: in the Church there is a place for everyone.”

Pope Francis condemned an attitude of laziness in the Church.

“Often we are like Peter in chains, imprisoned by our habits, fearful of change and bound to the chains of our routine. This leads quietly to spiritual mediocrity: we run the risk of ‘taking it easy’ and ‘getting by,’ also in our pastoral work,” he said.

“Our enthusiasm for mission wanes,” Francis added, “and instead of being a sign of vitality and creativity, ends up appearing tepid and listless.”

The pope referenced The Drama of Atheist Humanism by 20th century theologian Henri de Lubac.

“Then, the great current of newness and life that is the Gospel becomes in our hands — to use the words of Father de Lubac — a faith that ‘falls into formalism and habit…, a religion of ceremonies and devotions, of ornaments and vulgar consolations… a Christianity that is clerical, formalistic, anemic and callous,’” he said.

At the end of Mass, the Patriarchal Holy Trinity Cathedral Choir of Tbilisi, an Orthodox choir from the country of Georgia, chanted “Ave Maria” by Ilia II. 

The Tbilisi choir also gave a two-hour performance in the Sistine Chapel on June 26.

A delegation from the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople attended the Mass for Saints Peter and Paul.

Pope Francis and the delegation prayed together before the tomb of St. Peter after Mass.