Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis will have three historical meetings to honor their predecessors and discuss a variety of world issues on May 25 and 26, 2014 in Israel. This historical dialogue might have a tremendous impact on the two churches that have been separated since Pope Leo IX added three words -“and the son” – to the Nicene Creed in 1054, resulting in a schism between the Eastern Orthodox and Western Catholic Churches.
The two spiritual leaders are officially on a joined pilgrimage to the Holy Land to commemorate the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras that took place on January 5th, 1964. Then, it was the first step toward reconciliation when they shook hands in Jerusalem and ended the mutual excommunications issued by the Pope and Patriarch back in 1054.
Bartholomew said recently that the road to unity remains long, but Pope Francis’s acceptance of the invitation to meet in Jerusalem demonstrates that both leaders want to end the near 1,000-year divide.
“The Ecumenical Patriarch and the Pope have many issues to discuss and this visit will not be just a commemoration of the previous meeting of their predecessors,” says Orthodox Metropolitan Emmanuel of France.
According to Metropolitan Emanuel their discussions will focus on Syria and the situation in the Middle East, the protection of Christians, the environment and the foundations of Christian Marriage.
Metropolitan Emmanuel says that “the Pope is very much concerned on the foundations of the Christian family,” something that also concerns greatly the Orthodox Church.
“Both churches are concerned about Syria, North Africa and the protection of Christians in the Middle East,” added the Metropolitan of France.
Pope Francis said in December: “In some countries they kill Christians because they wear a cross or have a Bible, and before killing them they don’t ask if they’re Anglicans, Lutherans, Catholic or Orthodox.”
Watch Orthodox Metropolitan Emmanuel of France discusing Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to the Holy Land.
There are three planned meetings between the two 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 most significant meeting will take place at an Ecumenical Service of Thanksgiving Sunday evening, when they, along with a representative of the Armenian Church, will pray together at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The event has been described as“extraordinarily historic,” by Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, since the three communities normally observe strict separation when they worship in the church.
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.
Watch Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew talking about the upcoming meetings with Pope Francis.