Says it's "sealed by the blood and the suffering experienced together in the dark times of the persecution" of atheistic regime
Pope Francis says his trip to Romania last week, 20 years after John Paul II made his own journey to that country, gave a chance to highlight the “season of fraternal relations among the different Churches.” The country is primarily Orthodox, but the faithful have a good relationship with Catholics and Lutherans of the country as well.
Francis sent his greetings to Patriarch Daniel, the leader of the Romanian Orthodox, as he recapped his trip during today’s general audience. He said:
The Catholic community [of Romania], both “Greek” and “Latin,” is living and active. The union among all Christians, although incomplete, is based on the single Baptism and is sealed by the blood and the suffering experienced together in the dark times of the persecution, in particular during the last century under the atheist regime.
The pope has on various occasions made note of this “ecumenism of blood,” meaning the push for Christian unity that comes from persecution, both that of the past and the ongoing persecution of today.
A Communist government took power in Romania in 1947, flowing from the post-war Soviet occupation and the abdication of the king. Nicolae Ceausescu took power as a dictator in 1965, and ruled for decades with an increasingly draconian hand. He was overthrown and executed in 1989, but former communists continued in power till 1996.
Orthodox patriarchs have also spoken about the unity that arises from persecution. For example, in a meeting between Bartholomew and Francis in 2014, the Orthodox leader said:
We no longer have the luxury of isolated action. The modern persecutors of Christians do not ask which Church their victims belong to. The unity that concerns us is regrettably already occurring in certain regions of the world through the blood of martyrdom.
Francis has pointed out that it is Satan who desires the persecution of Christians, and that the devil doesn’t care much what stripe of Christian he harms.
[The devil] knows that Christians are disciples of Christ, that they are one, that they are brothers! He doesn’t care if they are Evangelicals or Orthodox, Lutherans, Catholics or Apostolic… he doesn’t care! They are Christians. It is he [Satan] who is persecuting Christians today, who is anointing us with (the blood of) martyrdom.
In summarizing his trip to Romania, the pope noted the motto of the trip focused on “walking together.”
And my joy was being able to do so not from afar, or from above, but walking myself in the midst of the Romanian people, as a pilgrim in their land.