On this feast of St. Andrew, Pope Francis today sent a message to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, telling him that now 50 years after the historic 1967 meeting of their predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, “we recognize how urgent it is to grow towards full and visible communion.”
Andrew, the brother of St. Peter, is honored as the patron saint of Byzantium — and the patriarch of Constantinople is his successor.
St. Peter, of course, was the first pope, but Andrew was the first apostle that was called by Jesus, as Scripture recounts.
Thus the brotherhood of these two apostles is an image for the union that should be achieved between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, and today’s feast is an annual moment to express both the unity that already exists and the hopes for full communion.
Pope Francis noted: “Catholics and Orthodox, by professing together the dogmas of the first seven Ecumenical Councils, by believing in the efficacy of the Eucharist and the other sacraments, and by preserving the apostolic succession of the ministry of bishops, experience already a profound closeness with one another.”
He also noted some issues that both he and Patriarch Bartholomew have taken to heart: “[I]n recent months I have followed with great interest your participation in significant international events held throughout the world regarding the
care of creation, peaceful coexistence among peoples of different cultures and religious traditions, and the presence of Christians in the Middle East.
“Your Holiness’s commitment is a source of inspiration, support and encouragement for me personally for, as you well know, we share these same concerns.”
He also made a specific request for prayer, as he’s away from Rome on his trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh, having begun today the second leg of that journey. Addressing the patriarch, he referenced the Orthodox divine liturgy, saying, “When the deacon invites those gathered during the Divine Liturgy to pray ‘for those who travel by land, sea, and air,’ I ask you, please, to pray also for me.”