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Sts. Peter and Paul represent “unity and diversity,” Pope Francis tells Orthodox

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Conformity with “the teaching of the apostles and the ecumenical councils” should inspire our efforts to restore full communion, says pope

VATICAN CITY — Half a century ago, in July 1967, Pope Paul VI traveled to Istanbul and visited the Phanar, the headquarters of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. There he met with the Orthodox leader Patriarch Athenagoras, who would travel to the Vatican in October of that same year.

Today, in warm words of welcome to an Orthodox delegation visiting Rome for the feast of its principal patrons, St. Peter and St. Paul, Pope Francis spoke of those two men as “courageous and farsighted pastors” who encourage us “to press forward in our journey towards full unity.”

The traditional exchange of delegations in June, the pope said, “increases our desire for the full restoration of communion between Catholics and Orthodox, of which we already have a foretaste in fraternal encounter, shared prayer and common service to the Gospel.”

As disciples and apostles of Jesus Christ, Pope Francis said, St. Peter and St. Paul “served the Lord in very different ways.  Yet in their diversity, both bore witness to the merciful love of God our Father, which each in his own fashion profoundly experienced, even to the sacrifice of his own life.”

“For this reason,” he explained, “from very ancient times the Church in the East and in the West combined in one celebration the commemoration of the martyrdom of Peter and Paul.  It is right to celebrate together their self-sacrifice for love of the Lord, for it is at the same time a commemoration of unity and diversity.”

The iconographical tradition sometimes represents the two apostles embracing one another.

In conformity with the Apostles

“In the first millennium,” Pope Francis said, “Christians of East and West shared in the same Eucharistic table, preserving together the same truths of faith while cultivating a variety of theological, spiritual and canonical traditions compatible with the teaching of the apostles and the ecumenical councils.”

That experience, he said, “is a necessary point of reference and a source of inspiration for our efforts to restore full communion in our own day, a communion that must not be reduced to a bland uniformity.”

Pope Francis also recalled his own meetings with Patriarch Bartholomew, in particular their recent encounter in Cairo, which highlighted “the profound convergences” of approach to the challenges facing the Church and the world today.

Catholics and Orthodox traveling together

Looking ahead to the next meeting of the coordinating committee for the joint dialogue group on the Greek island of Leros in September, the Pope said he hoped it will be fruitful and recognize the journey already being travelled together by many Catholics and Orthodox in different parts of the world.

Finally, the Pope recalled Jesus’ own prayer for the unity of his disciples, saying that through the intercession of Saints Peter, Paul and Andrew, we must ask the Lord to make us instruments of communion and peace.

Source: Vatican Radio

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