March 20, 2013, Wednesday — “My Brother Andrew”

The key thing that Pope Francis did today was to greet Patriarch Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, based in Constantinople, as “my brother Andrew.”

Now, Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter, the first Bishop of Rome. They were fishermen together on the Sea of Galilee, 2,000 years ago.

So Pope Francis, the successor of Peter, in 2013, is expressing the sense of friendship he feels toward the Orthodox, a friendship which reaches the level of fraternal feelings: the two men, Francis and Bartholomew, are as the brothers Peter and Andrew.

The patriarchs of Constantinople are considered the successors of the Apostle Andrew, and the Popes of Rome are considered the successors of the Apostle Peter

Bartholomew’s’ decision to travel to Rome for Pope Francis’ installation “is an extraordinary event in the history of Christianity, and it is significant for reasons far beyond its novelty,” writes George E. Demacopoulos, PhD, of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center, Fordham University, on website of the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle.

“The occasion is being presented in the media as something that has not happened since the ecclesiastical schism that separated Christian East and Christian West in the eleventh century,” Demacopoulos wrote. “But that characterization is almost certainly wrong — this is quite likely the first time in history that a Bishop of Constantinople will attend the installation of a Bishop of Rome. And this is a profoundly bold step in ecumenical relations between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics, one that could have lasting significance.

“First and foremost it is a powerful symbolic gesture for the cause of Christian unity,” he continued. “It demonstrates in unprecedented fashion the extent to which the Ecumenical Patriarch considers the relationship with the Roman Catholic Church to be a priority. For their part, members of the Vatican staff have responded to this grand gesture and have arranged for the reading of the Gospel at the installation to be sung in Greek (rather than Latin) in recognition of the fact that the Ecumenical Patriarch has taken this unprecedented step.

“The Christian world has been divided for so long that the establishment of an authentic reunion will require courage, leadership, and humility,” he concluded. “It will also require a foundation in common faith and concerns. Given Pope Francis’ well-documented work for social justice and his insistence that globalization is detrimental to the poor, it would appear as though the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic traditions have a renewed opportunity to work collectively on issues of mutual concern. With our Lord’s assistance, that common cause can be transformed into more substantive theological work. But such work requires a first step and it would appear as though Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is willing to take such a step.”

Note on the Urbi et Orbi Foundation at the Service of Pope Francis

I note in passing that, together with about 30 other Catholics, along with a number of Protestants and Orthodox, we recently launched the “Urbi et Orbi Foundation,” based in the United States, to work for greater unity between Catholics and Orthodox. We have been seeking 100 “Founding Members,” each of whom donates $2,500, to launch our Foundation. Some of you reading this have already become members. We will be working closely with the new Pope, Francis, through the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to support Francis’s efforts to build bridges of trust between the East and the West. We will support a number of initiatives, from direct charity (improved medical care for abandoned children) to theological and cultural initiatives (lectures and concerts). If you wish further information about this Foundation, simply reply to this email and I will email back with full details. I encourage you to consider joining with us in this work. —Robert Moynihan)

So Pope Francis met today, the second day of his pontificate, with “fraternal delegates” who ranged from representatives of other Christian Churches and denominations, to representatives of Jewish, Muslim, and other non-Christian communities.

Once again, as he has so often in these days, he asked for those present to pray for him.

One might almost say that today was the day of “Brother Francis” (“Fra Francesco“) as much as it was of “Pope Francis.”

The Encyclical on Faith

Pope Francis also made reference in his remarks to these “fraternal delegates” to “The Year of Faith” which was called by Pope Benedict XVI last fall, and which will finish in November, on the Feast of Christ the King.

One of the great questions of the new papacy right now is what Pope Francis will decide to do about the encyclical on “faith” which Pope Benedict had been preparing for this “Year of Faith,” and had evidently nearly finished. The text is said to contain many very beautiful passages. Will Pope Francis make this encyclical his own? Could he even consider publishing it under both his name and the name of his predecessor? Or will he not publish it at all? We do not know.

Phone Call to Benedict

Also, yesterday afternoon, the Vatican confirmed, Pope Francis made a phone call to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to express his good wishes on the Pope Emeritus’ saint’s day — the Feast of St. Joseph (March 19). Francis conveyed to Emeritus Pope Benedict his, and the Church’s, gratitude for the Pope emeritus’ service. It was a long and cordial phone call.

Benedict has attentively followed the events of recent days, including watching the events on television, in particular the Mass of inauguration of the new pontiff’s Petrine ministry yesterday, and Benedict assured his successor of his continued closeness in prayer.

The two will meet in Castel Gandolfo on Saturday, March 23.

A Second Dossier for Francis to Read?

Interestingly, it was reported today in Avvenire, the daily paper of the Italian bishops’ conference, that, in addition to the 300-page secret dossier on the “Vatileaks” affair that Emeritus Pope Benedict has left to Pope Francis, there is also another text by Benedict himself which Benedict has “left on his desk” for the new Pope to read.

The news comes from a normally reliable source — Archbishop Loris Capovilla, who was the personal secretary of Pope John XXIII (1958-1963). However, Capovilla is now 98 years old, so it is possible that he may have confused the Vatileaks dossier with this other text, although Capovilla says quite directly that “it is not the Vatileaks dossier.”

Here is the text from this morning’s Avvenire in a interview of Capovilla by Marco Roncalli. Capovilla says: “In ogni caso – e non stiamo parlando dei dossier Vatileaks – Benedetto XVI ha lasciato sulla scrivania del suo successore qualcosa come trecento pagine scritte personalmente da lui, così mi è stato detto da Roma.” (“In any case — and I am not talking about the Vatileaks dossier — Benedict XVI has left on the desk of his successor something like 300 pages written personally by him, so I have been told by Rome.”)

Roncalli ends his interview by wondering whether Pope Francis is already reading this long text left, it appears, by Pope Benedict.

Private Audiences

Also today, just prior to the larger meeting, Pope Francis received in separate, smaller audiences:

— Her Excellency Dilma Vana Rousseff, president of Brazil, with an entourage,

— His Holiness Bartholomew I, Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople,

— Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow, and

Claudio Epelman, executive director of the Latin American Jewish Congress.

In Argentina, Pope Francis Hosted Russian Orthodox Icons

Regarding the meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion: On March 18, Monday, a delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate headed by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations (DECR), arrived in Rome to attend the enthronement of Pope Francis. Hilarion and Bishop Sergiy of Solnechnogorsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Administrative Secretariat, were met at the airport by the Rev. Milan Žust, S.J., of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and hieromonk Antoniy (Sevryuk), rector of the Church of St. Catherine in Rome and secretary of the administration of the Moscow Patriarchate’s parishes in Italy.

Members of the delegation were accommodated at the Domus Santa Marta, where the new Pope is residing. A short meeting with Pope Francis took place at the refectory. The Pope warmly greeted Metropolitan Hilarion who introduced members of the delegation and conveyed cordial best wishes to Pope Francis from His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.

The Pope said that he had offered special prayers for Patriarch Kirill at the divine service as it is a commemoration day of St. Cyril of Jerusalem according to the Julian calendar.

Pope Francis also thanked Metropolitan Hilarion for the exhibition of Russian icons held in Buenos Aires last autumn with the St. Gregory the Theologian Charity Foundation’s assistance. The future Pope visited the exhibition and has warm recollections of it.

Francis: “I also ask of you the kindness of a special prayer for myself, so that I might be a Pastor in harmony with Christ’s heart.”

Here is a more detailed report on the noon meeting with the “fraternal delegates” from the Vatican Information Service (VIS):


Vatican City, 20 March 2013 (VIS) – Early this afternoon in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis received fraternal delegates, that is, representative envoys of Churches, Ecclesial Communities, and international ecumenical organizations, as well as representatives of non-Christian Religions, who have come to Rome for the inauguration of his ministry as Bishop of Rome and successor of the Apostle Peter.

On behalf of those present, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, greeted the Pope, recalling the “elevated, serious, and difficult task” that his ministry bears with it. He also reiterated the need for the Churches to shun worldly distractions and to work on the unity between Christians.

Francis, who listened to the words of the Patriarch seated on an armchair rather than the throne that is customarily used in the Clementine Hall, thanked Bartholomew I, calling him “my brother Andrew,” since the patriarchs of Constantinople are considered the successors of the Apostle Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter.

He then said that, thanks to the presence at yesterday’s Mass of representatives of the various communities, he felt “in an even stronger way, the prayer for unity among the believers in Christ and [glimpsed] prefigured in some way, its full realization, which depends on God’s plan and our sincere cooperation.”

“I begin my apostolic ministry,” he continued, “in this year that my venerated predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, with a truly inspired intuition, proclaimed the Year of Faith for the Catholic Church. With this initiative, which I wish to continue and which I hope serves as a stimulus for each of us in our journey of faith, he wanted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, proposing a type of pilgrimage to what is essential for every Christian: a personal and transforming relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died and rose again for our salvation. The heart of the Council’s message lies precisely in the desire to proclaim this ever-valid treasure of the faith to the persons of our time.”

Francis then recalled the image and words of Pope John XXIII at the opening of the Council: “The Catholic Church considers it her duty to actively work so as to bring about the great mystery of that unity for which Jesus Christ prayed so ardently to His Father in heaven on the eve of his sacrifice.”

He continued saying: “Yes, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we all feel intimately joined in our Saviour’s prayer at the Last Supper, to his call: ‘ut unum sint‘. Let us call on our merciful Father that we may fully live that faith that we received as a gift on the day of our Baptism and to be able to witness to it freely, joyfully, and courageously. This will be the best way we can serve the cause of unity among Christians, a service of hope for a world that is still marked by divisions, differences, and rivalries.”

“For my part, I wish to assure you, following in the path of my predecessors, of my firm will to continue on the path of ecumenical dialogue … I ask you to take my cordial greetings and assurance of my remembrance in the Lord Jesus to the Churches and Christian Communities that you represent here. I also ask of you the kindness of a special prayer for myself, so that I might be a Pastor in harmony with Christ’s heart.”

Then, addressing the representatives of the Jewish communities, he emphasized “the very special spiritual bond” that they have with Christians.

Quoting the Vatican II declaration Nostra Aetate (1965), he said: “’The Church of Christ acknowledges that … the beginnings of her faith and her election are found already among the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets.’ … I am confident that, with the help of the Almighty, we can profitably continue that fraternal dialogue that the Council hoped for and that has been carried out, bearing not few fruits, especially over the last few decades.”

The Pope then greeted those belonging to other religious traditions, first of all the Muslims who “adore the one, living, and merciful God and who call upon Him in prayer.”

Then, addressing all those gathered, he said: “I really appreciate your presence. In it I see a tangible sign of the desire to grow in mutual respect and cooperation for the common good of humanity.”

“The Catholic Church is aware of the importance of the promotion of friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions. I want to repeat this: the promotion of friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions.”…

The Church “is also aware of the responsibility that we all bear to this our world, to all of creation, which we should love and protect. And we can do much for the good of the poorest, of the weak and suffering, to promote justice and reconciliation, to build peace. But, above all, we must keep alive the thirst for the Absolute in the world, not allowing a one-dimensional vision of the human person, in which humanity is reduced to that which it produces and consumes, to prevail. This is one of the most dangerous pitfalls of our times.”

“We know how, in recent times, violence has produced an attempt to eliminate God and the divine from the horizon of humanity, and we feel the value of witnessing in our societies to the original openness to the transcendent that is inscribed in the human heart. In this, we also feel close to all men and women who, although not claiming to belong to any religious tradition, still feel themselves to be in search of truth, goodness, and beauty, God’s Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, and who are our precious allies in the effort to defend human dignity, in building a peaceful coexistence between peoples, and in carefully protecting creation.”

(end VIS report)

“Think nothing else but that God ordains all, and where there is no love, put love, and you will draw love out.” –St. John of the Cross

Francis’s schedule for the next few days

On Saturday, 23 March, he will go to Castel Gandolfo to meet with Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI and have lunch with him.

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