Daily Sabah, Turkey
Nov 30 2014
FOUR CHURCHES MEET IN TURKEY AS POPE AIMS FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
The spiritual head of the Catholic world, Pope Francis, and the
ecumenical patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Bartholomew I,
issue a message of unity from Istanbul and call for an end to the
millennium-old schism that divides Christianity
ISTANBUL ‘ Spiritual leaders from the Catholic and Orthodox Churches
signed a Common Declaration on Sunday in an attempt to forge stronger
ties between the two flocks and called for interfaith dialogue.
Leaders of the Armenian and Assyrian Orthodox Churches of Turkey were
also present at the joint Mass conducted by Ecumenical Patriarch
Bartholomew and Roman Catholic Pope Francis.
The Mass was interpreted by some as cementing efforts to heal the
1,000-year-old schism between the 300 million followers of Orthodox
Christianity and the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. “We cannot
resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians,” the pope and
patriarch said in a joint statement, noting that members of the faith
have lived in the region for 2,000 years.
Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Istanbul-based
leader of many of the world’s Orthodox Christians, met at the
Patriarchate in Istanbul as part of the three-day visit of the 77-year
old pontiff in Turkey. The two leaders emphasized the importance of
the declaration for “Christian unity and momentous impact on the
suffering of Christians in the Middle East.”
“We also recognize the importance of promoting a constructive dialogue
with Islam based on mutual respect and friendship,” the joint common
declaration said. “Inspired by common values and strengthened by
genuine fraternal sentiments, Muslims and Christians are called to
work together for the sake of justice, peace and respect for the
dignity and rights of every person, especially in those regions where
they once lived for centuries in peaceful coexistence and now
tragically suffer together the horrors of war.”The declaration was
signed after the Divine Liturgy to commemorate the feast of St. Andrew
the Apostle on Nov. 30. Along with Pope Francis, Greek Foreign
Minister Evangelos Venizelos, Turkey’s chief rabbi, Itzhak Helava, as
well as senior figures from other Christian churches attended the
service celebrated by Bartholomew.
Bartholomew became the first Orthodox patriarch to ever attend a papal
inauguration ceremony since the split between the two churches when he
took part in Pope Francis’s inauguration last year at the Vatican. The
leaders of Catholic and Orthodox Christianity also called for an end
to the conflict in Ukraine and “respect for international law” in
resolving the violence. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said there
was still a way to go before there could be true and total unification
of the churches, but noted that the pope and patriarch have been
meeting frequently in an “incredibly friendly, cordial way.”
As part of his interfaith efforts during the trip, Francis also met
Turkey’s chief rabbi on Sunday, after spending time with Muslim
leaders on Saturday.
During the second day of his visit, Francis and Bartholomew prayed for
world peace on Saturday in the Church of St. George. The service took
place after Francis celebrated a special Mass at the Catholic
Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in the city’s BeyoÃ„?lu district.
In 2006, Pope Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI visited the same
mosque during a visit to Turkey.