In a gesture of utmost respect, Pope Francis kissed the hand of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I after they prayed together at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, Israel.
The two spiritual leaders were on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to commemorate the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras that took place on January 5th, 1964, the first meeting of a pope and ecumenical patriarch since 1437.
Meeting Sunday afternoon at the Apostolic Delegation in the Old City of Jerusalem, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Batholomew signed a Joint Declaration affirming their commitment to and anticipation of full sacramental unity in obedience to the commandment of Jesus Christ that his “disciples may be one.”
They also expressed their profound concern for the plight of Christians in the Middle East and reaffirmed their fervent commitment to respect and protect God’s creation. Finally, they underlined the importance of dialogue among the world’s religions.
After the Joint Declaration was signed, the two global Christian leaders proceeded to the Church of the Resurrection, where they venerated the Holy Sepulcher, the Tomb of Christ. Following some private moments in the Cenotaph, they offered an ecumenical prayer of thanksgiving, which was attended by other local Christian leaders and faithful from all over the world.
And after Ecumenical Bartholomew delivered his remarks, Pope Francis took his hand and kissed it, in remarkable show of papal respect for a patriarch, when some 500 years ago Patriarch Joseph II was forced to kiss the feet of Pope Eugene IV in a sign of subservience. Watch the video below:
Orthodox Christians use to kiss their priest’s hands not only tothem, but in veneration of the Body of Christ which the priest handles during the Divine Liturgy as he prepares Holy Communion.