The Orthodox leader and Pope Francis share many concerns, including hope for unity.
Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew celebrates 30 years since his election on October 22, 2021. Pope Francis sent him a congratulatory letter, expressing his best wishes.
“I join you in thanksgiving to the Lord for the many blessings bestowed upon your life and ministry over these years,” said the Pope, “and pray that God, from whom all gifts come, will grant you health, spiritual joy and abundant grace to sustain every aspect of your lofty service.”
The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is the first autocephalous jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church, resulting from the foundation of the patriarchal see in Constantinople in 381 and the separation from Rome since the schism of 1054. Heir to the Byzantine Christian tradition, this patriarchate now counts 3.5 million faithful, distributed mainly in Greece, North America and Western Europe.
Bartholomew I was elected as the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople of the Eastern Orthodox Church on October 22, 1991, and installed as the 270th successor to the Apostle Andrew a few days later on November 2.
Pope Francis and the Patriarch have met on numerous occasions, with the most recent occasions being earlier this month. They share what the Pope referred to as a “profound personal bond.”
“As clearly reflected once again by your participation in events recently held in Rome,” added the Pope, “I share with you the understanding of our common pastoral responsibility in the face of the urgent challenges confronting the entire human family today.”
Commitment to humanity’s future
Pope Francis went on to express his support for Bartholomew’s commitment to safeguarding Creation and the need for humanity’s spiritual renewal.
“With the outbreak of the pandemic and the ensuing grave health, social and economic repercussions, your testimony and teaching on the need for the spiritual conversion of humanity have acquired enduring relevance,” said the Pope.
He also thanked the Ecumenical Patriarch for pursuing the path of “dialogue, in charity and truth, as the only possible way for reconciliation between believers in Christ and for the re-establishment of their full communion.”
“With God’s help,” added Pope Francis, “this is the path along which we will most certainly continue to walk together, for the closeness and solidarity between our Churches are an indispensable contribution to universal brotherhood and social justice, of which humanity is so urgently in need.”
Pope Francis wrapped up his letter to Patriarch Bartholomew expressing his sentiments of “deep fraternal affection” and his spiritual closeness in “a holy embrace in the love of Christ the Lord.”