(Rome) – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has said he hopes Pope Francis will meet him in Jerusalem next year to mark the 50th anniversary of the famous embrace between their predecessors, Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras. If Pope Francis were to visit Jerusalem in 2014, it would also mark the fifth anniversary of Benedict XVI’s visit to the Holy Land.
Shortly after their meeting this morning, the Pope and the patriarch met at a gathering of ecumenical and interreligious leaders in the Clementine Hall.
During the meeting, Pope Francis pledged his commitment to the “noble task” of ecumenical dialogue; reaffirmed his commitment to continue a “fruitful fraternal dialogue” with Jews; and expressed a desire to pursue “reciprocal trust” with Muslims.
The meeting began with a greeting from Bartholomew, who noted the “elevated, serious, and difficult task” of the Petrine ministry. Bartholomew also noted the churches “have a duty to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, cure the sick” and praised the pope for “his choice of simplicity” which he described necessary in correcting “worldly notions” that have emerged among Christians and others. He also thanked Pope Francis for his “long and valued ministry as a Good Samaritan in Latin America”.
The Pope, who sat in an armchair rather than the throne usually reserved for the Pontiff, immediately established a fraternal tone by thanking “my brother Andrew” for his greeting, a reference to the Patriarch’s representation of the patron saint of Constantinople. He expressed his gratitude for the prayerful support of all those present.
He stressed that “the more we are faithful to [God’s] will, in thoughts, in words and in deeds, the more we will truly and substantially walk towards unity.” And he assured the Christian and ecumenical leaders of his “firm wish” to continue on the path of ecumenical dialogue.
The warmth and cordiality between Pope Francis and Jewish and Muslim representatives from Argentina – they embraced each other like dear old friends – is an indication of how future relations with the new Pope might develop.