Front Row With Francis: The Root of Ecumenism


Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the GospelAt Wednesday’s General Audience on Dec.3, Pope Francis’s catechesis focused on “ the hope that fruits of dialogue will flow be it in our relations with our Orthodox brothers, be it in those with Muslims, be it in the path to peace among peoples”, as a result of his apostolic visit to Turkey.

While most of the attention was on Pope Francis being present at a Divine Liturgy at the Phanar (the home district of the Ecumenical Patriarch) the Pope also used this opportunity to meet together with the other various Eastern Catholic leaders in Turkey.

I did so hearing in my heart the invocation of the Lord, God of Heaven and Earth, merciful Father of the whole of humanity. The center of the day was the Eucharistic Celebration, which gathered in the Cathedral pastors and faithful of different Catholic rites present in Turkey.

In matters of ecumenism, the Pope reminded his audience that true unity will only come about if it is rooted in prayer.

In addition we pray, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, that the Holy Spirit will render this apostolic journey fruitful and foster in the Church missionary fervor to proclaim to all peoples, in respect and in fraternal dialogue, that the Lord Jesus is Truth, Peace and Love. He alone is Lord.

Pope Francis reminds the Church that dialogue must be also rooted in the truth of who Jesus Christ is, not in compromise. This puts ecumenism, dialogue with the secular world and with other religions in perspective. Roman Catholics, lead by the pope, will be respectful, polite, and come in peace, but they come to proclaim a non-negotiable truth in the sovereignty of Jesus Christ as Redeemer and Lord.

Most Catholics are painfully aware of the Great Schism of the 11th century when the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox patriarchates split from one another, creating the separation which still exists today, centuries later. One of the theological differences that caused the split was the role that Catholics ascribe to the Pontiff. This trip to Turkey illustrated one aspect of the Petrine ministry:  the pope as “bridge builder” because he is the leader, the head of the Church reaching out in reconciliation and evangelization to his brothers.

If individual Catholics are serious about obeying God and participating in healing the Catholic-Orthodox rift, they must seek individual reconciliation, not just the pope. It is important to note that St. Peter, head of the Roman Rite and St. Andrew founder of the Eastern rite were brothers! Catholics, led by the successor of one brother, and the Orthodox, led by the successor of another brother, need to be reconciled just like the faithful must do when we are in enmity with a sibling or brother.

“If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brethren has something against you, leave your gift before the altar and go first be reconciled to your brother” (Matt. 5:23-24)



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