As every year, on this feast of St. Andrew, Pope Francis sent a message to the Patriarch of Constantinople.
Andrew is the patron saint of the Church of Constantinople and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The saint is the brother of St. Peter, the first pope, and the “first-called” Apostle.
In the Pope’s brief message, he noted Bartholomew’s recent visit to Rome and the united efforts the two Churches are making to promote world peace, care for creation, education, and dialogue among different religions.
In this way, we as Pastors, together with our Churches, strengthen the profound bond that already unites us, since our common responsibility in the face of current challenges flows from our shared faith in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; in the one Lord Jesus Christ, his Son, who became man for our salvation, died and rose from the dead; and in the Holy Spirit, Lord and giver of life, who harmonizes differences without abolishing them.
“United in this faith, let us seek with determination to make visible our communion,” Pope Francis urged.
While recognizing that there remain theological and ecclesiological questions at the heart of the work of our ongoing theological dialogue, it is my hope that Catholics and Orthodox may increasingly work together in those areas in which it is not only possible, but indeed imperative that we do so.
Are we ready for the gift?
Pope Francis reflected that unity will only be a gift from God. But he prayed that the two Churches might be ready to accept this gift.
Beloved brother in Christ, along the path towards full communion between our Churches, we are sustained by the intercession of the holy brothers Peter and Andrew, our patron saints. The full unity for which we yearn is, of course, a gift from God, through the grace of the Holy Spirit.
May our Lord help us to be ready to embrace this gift through prayer, interior conversion and openness to seeking and offering pardon.