Pope Francis sent special greetings to Orthodox Church leader Patriarch Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople that expressed his brotherly love for his fellow spiritual leader. He said that he hoped for continued dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in the missive delivered by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
“Your Holiness, beloved brother in Christ, this is the first time that I address you on the occasion of the feast of the Apostle Andrew, the first-called. I take this opportunity to assure you of my intention to pursue fraternal relations between the Church of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” he said on Nov. 30.
Pope Francis continued, “God, the source of all peace and love, has taught us throughout these years to regard one another as members of the same family. For indeed, we have one Lord and Savior. We belong to him through the gift of the good news of salvation transmitted by the apostles, through the one baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity, and through the holy ministry.”
The Pope also referred to the current disconnect between the Catholic and Orthodox churches. “United in Christ, therefore, we already experience the joy of authentic brothers in Christ, while yet fully aware of not having reached the goal of full communion. In anticipation of the day in which we will finally take part together in the Eucharistic feast, Christians are duty-bound to prepare to receive this gift of God through prayer, inner conversion, renewal of life and fraternal dialogue.”
The Pope also mentioned the persecution faced by Christians living in the Middle East, whose plight he has been vocal about before.
“The memory of the martyrdom of the apostle Saint Andrew also makes us think of the many Christians of all the Churches and Ecclesial Communities who in many parts of the world experience discrimination and at times pay with their own blood the price of their profession of faith,” he said.
“Christians of the East and West must give common witness so that, strengthened by the Spirit of the risen Christ, they may disseminate the message of salvation to the entire world.”