For the first time since the schism of 1054, Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, will attend the inauguration of new Pope Francis, the Vatican radio reported.
The spiritual leaders of the world’s Orthodox Christians will attend Pope Francis’s inaugural Mass set to take place at St. Peter’s Square on March 19.
Immediately following the election of Pope Francis on the evening of March 13, the Patriarch communicated the following congratulatory message to the Vatican:
“In the joy and jubilation of Your election as the pastoral leader of Roman Catholic Christians throughout the world, we are communicating with Your Holiness in order to express to You and the devout faithful of Your blessed Church our wholehearted congratulations and sincerest salutations on this special day.
Permit us also, on this historic occasion, to convey our unfeigned wishes and fervent prayers that your papal tenure may prove to be a source of peace in our world of turmoil and division, a refuge and consolation for our Lord’s poor and suffering brothers and sisters, as well as a continuation of our journey toward reconciliation and consolidation of the dialogue for the unity of our Sister Churches.
May God grant Your Holiness many years of healthy and fruitful ministry to serve His people with Your distinctive humility, simplicity, and charity.”
The ecumenical patriarch will be accompanied by Ioannis Zizioulas, metropolitan of Pergamon and co-president of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church, as well as Tarassios, Orthodox Metropolitan of Argentina, and Gennadios, Orthodox Metropolitan of Italy.
The East–West Schism, sometimes known as the Great Schism, is the medieval division of Chalcedonian Christianity into Eastern (Greek) and Western (Latin) branches, which later became commonly known as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church respectively.
Relations between Catholics and Orthodox have been improving since the Second Vatican Council through mutual visits, acts of friendship and theological dialogue.
Patriarch Bartholomew I, who was elected as the 273rd Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in October 1991, visited the Vatican for the first time in June 1995.
John Paul II was the first pope since the Great Schism to visit an Eastern Orthodox country – Romania – in May 1999.