ISTANBUL: Pope Francis, spiritual leader of Catholic Christians, and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I prayed for unity between the Catholics and the Orthodox and the world peace here on Sunday.
During his last day of his visit to Turkey, Pope Francis attended Sunday’s ceremony at Istanbul’s Orthodox cathedral of St. George. The two spiritual leaders then signed a joint declaration giving strong messages of the full unity between the two churches.
“We, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, express our profound gratitude to God for the gift of this new encounter,” the declaration reads.
Bartholomew also said that “We have a long and though road ahead of us but it is irreversible,” adding that the two churches don’t have the luxury to be separated anymore.
Pope Francis also highlighted that the foundation of a full unity would be mutual respect. “(The unity) would recognize neither a dominance of one side nor the assimilation of the other. ”
Catholic News Agency interpreted the statement as a step forward toward the unity.
“In the second joint declaration they have signed since May, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew reaffirmed their shared desire for full Christian unity, as well as their concerns for the Middle East,” the agency said.
The Catholic and Orthodox churches divided in 1054 mainly over differences on the primacy of the papacy. During the period there was a tradition that patriarchs had to kiss popes’ feet.
The attitude and the statement have been interpreted by theologists as a strong signal of unity and softening of the tense relations of the two churches.
Pope Francis, while addressing the violence in the Middle East, said that in order to prevent Christians from being persecuted by Islamist jihadists, reconciliation is needed more than ever before.
“The cry of the victims of conflict urges us to move with haste along the path of reconciliation and communion between Catholics and Orthodox,” he said.
“Indeed, how can we credibly proclaim the message of peace which comes from Christ, if there continues to be rivalry and disagreement between us?” he added.
Pope Francis will leave for Vatican on Sunday afternoon. PNA