My Brother Andrew


francis-waveThe key thing that Pope Francis did yesterday 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.”


Pope Francis also met yesterday 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.


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