TURKEY - VATICAN
first time since the Great Schism an Ecumenical patriarch is to attend the new pope's
The metropolitans of Argentina
and Italy will accompany Bartholomew. Moscow Patriarchate hopes in closer
cooperation with Rome but excludes for now a meeting between Pope Francis and
Istanbul (AsiaNews) - The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew
I will attend Pope Francis's inaugural Mass. The Ecumenical Patriarchate Press
Office informed AsiaNews
about the decision, noting that this is the
first time such an event occurs since the Catholic-Orthodox split in 1054, an
important sign for Christian unity.
The ecumenical patriarch will be accompanied by Ioannis Zizioulas,
metropolitan of Pergamon and co-president of the Joint International Commission
for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church, as
well as Tarassios, Orthodox Metropolitan of Argentina, and Gennadios, Orthodox
Metropolitan of Italy.
Relations between Catholics and Orthodox have been improving since the Second
Vatican Council through mutual visits, acts of friendship and theological
Under Benedict XVI, the dialogue picked up in earnest after a lull. In trying
to promote it, the pope suggested ways to express the primacy of Peter's
successor that could be acceptable to the Orthodox, finding his inspiration from
the undivided Church of the first millennium.
Catholic ecumenism has met however with great resistance from the Russian
Orthodox Church and the Moscow Patriarchate, seat of the 'Third Rome'.
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church's Department for External Relations,
Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, said on Thursday that a meeting between
the pope and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow was "possible but the place and timing
will depend on how quickly we will overcome the consequences of the conflicts
from the turn of 1980s and 1990s".
The issue of the Ukrainian Catholic Church is at the core of the "conflicts"
to which Hilarion was referring. Although it was unbanned following the collapse
of the Soviet Union, it was left without its original churches, which had been
seized by the Communists under Soviet rule and later transferred to the Orthodox
Still, "on several occasions, Pope Francis has shown spiritual sympathy
towards the Orthodox Church and a desire for closer contacts," Hilarion
It is his hope that under the new pontificate "relations of alliance will
develop and that our ties will be strengthened."