Istanbul, December 1, 2014/ Independent Balkan News Agency
Francis-Bartholomew signed joint declaration towards the convergence of the two Churches
By Manolis Kostidis
Great satisfaction and emotion caused to the Ecumenical Patriarchate the historic visit of Pope Francis at the Fanar, where he met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and participated in solemn Patriarchal and Synodical Divine Liturgy for the Patronal celebration of St. Andrew.
The liturgy also attended the vice president of the Greek Government and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos.
The emotion was similar at the Patriarchal Church of St. George on Saturday afternoon, where in the thanksgiving for the arrival of the Pope, the two Primates exchanged the kiss of love with Pope Francis asking the blessing of the Ecumenical Patriarch for him and his church and Patriarch Bartholomew kissing him on the head giving him his blessing.
In thanksgiving, the Creed was read by the lord of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Theodoros Angelopoulos.
Bartholomew “We have symbolically bridged the West with the East”
Addressing the Pope Francis Patriarch Bartholomew stressed that he greets him “with joy, honor and gratitude”, because he came from the Old to the New Rome, “symbolically bridging the West and the East, bearer of the love of the First to his First-brother”.
Patriarch Bartholomew also noted that the arrival of the Pope is a continuation of the visits made by his predecessors Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and “the willingness of Church of Rome for the continuation of the steady course, towards the restoration of the full communion between the Churches”.
The Ecumenical Patriarch donated to the Pope an icon of St. George, which was painted in Mount Athos, while the Pope offered him as a gift a copy of a greek manuscript of the 11th century, the original of which is hoarded in the Vatican Library, and a copy of a mosaic with the representation of Christ that decorated in the 9th century the church of St. Peter in Rome.
Promise for efforts to end the schism
After the Mass, the Pope stressed that “what the Catholic Church wants and I as a Bishop of Rome seek, is the communion with the Orthodox Churches”, showing the efforts of both sides to end the schism.
The Pontiff said that “for full communion with the Orthodox churches, the basic rule is mutual respect. This does not mean that one will remain under the authority of another”.
The Ecumenical Patriarch in his speech said that “we cannot afford to move separately. We have before us a path with obstacles, but we are on a road of no return”.
Joint declaration for the Christians of the Middle East
In a joint declaration, the two Primates appealed to end the brutal persecution of Christians in Syria and Iraq and called for a “constructive dialogue” with Islam. A dialogue, “which will be based on mutual respect”.
Visit to the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque
On Saturday morning the Pontiff visited the Blue Mosque. After the tour, he prayed in the mosque.
Immediately after, the Pontiff went to St. Sophia, where he took a guided tour, but refrained from praying.
What made an impression was that the tour guide was giving more information to the Pope for the Ottoman history of Hagia Sophia, and reported fewer details about the history of this Byzantine church.
Unannounced visits to the Patriarch of the Armenians
A few minutes before his departure from Istanbul, the Pope changed his program and visited the Armenian Patriarch in Istanbul, Mesromp Moutafian who has been hospitalised, since 2008, in a hospital of the community of Armenians. In the coming months the Armenians will elect a new Patriarch as the Moutafian suffers from Alzheimer’s.
During his three-day visit of the Pope, strong security measures were taken and were mobilized about 7,000 Turkish policemen.