His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of over 300 million Orthodox Christian faithful worldwide, arrived in Israel today in order to meet with Pope Francis on May 25 and 26, 2014 in the Holy City of Jerusalem.
At Ben Gurion International Airport, His All-Holiness was greeted by His Excellency Uzi Landau, Israeli Minister of Tourism, His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem, and the Consuls General of Greece and Turkey in Jerusalem, Mr. George Zacharioudakis and Mr. Mustafa Sarnic. After arriving in Jerusalem, the Ecumenical Patriarch proceeded to the Church of the Resurrection (Holy Sepulcher) and led a service of Thanksgiving in advance of his meetings with Pope Francis. Watch the video from the Ecumenical Patriarch’s arrival in Israel:
There are three planned meetings between the two world religious leaders, following the pattern established in 1964 during the meetings of their predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. The first meeting will occur at the Apostolic Delegation in the Old City of Jerusalem, where they will sign a Joint Declaration. The second meeting will be at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where they will lead an ecumenical gathering in a Service of Thanksgiving. The third meeting will take place on the Mount of Olives at the residence of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, where they will seal their pilgrimage and fraternal exchange.
The initiative for this meeting originated during the installation of the new Pontiff in March of 2013. In a manifestation of Christian love and mutual respect, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew personally attended the enthronement of Pope Francis. This was the first time in history that a Primate of Constantinople attended the installation of the Primate of Rome. During these celebratory days, the agreement to commemorate this remarkable anniversary was born in their private meeting.
Subsequently, each Primate announced their intention to journey to Jerusalem for the immediate purpose of commemorating the 50th anniversary of the meeting of their predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras. That meeting, in 1964, was the first time an Ecumenical Patriarch and a Pope had met in over five hundred years. This historic encounter led to the Lifting of the mutual and limited Anathemas (December 7, 1965) that occurred over one thousand years before, in the year 1054.