VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Professing the same faith in the mercy of God, Catholics and Orthodox must do more to ensure mercy marks the way they treat each other, Pope Francis told a delegation from the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
“If, as Catholics and Orthodox, we wish to proclaim together the marvels of God’s mercy to the whole world, we cannot continue to harbor sentiments and attitudes of rivalry, mistrust and rancour,” the pope said June 28.
The delegation, led by Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Methodios of Boston, was in Rome to represent Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople at the pope’s celebration of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the patron saints of the church of Rome.
Since 1969, the patriarchs have sent delegations to the Vatican for the June 29 feast and the popes have sent a delegation to Turkey each year for the feast of St. Andrew, patron of the patriarchate.
Metropolitan Methodios is the Orthodox co-president of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation. Pope Francis used his presence at the Vatican as an opportunity to praise the “fruitful work” of the North American group. “Instituted more than 50 years ago, this consultation has proposed significant reflections on central theological issues for our churches, thus fostering the development of excellent relations between Catholics and Orthodox on that continent,” the pope said.
Pope Francis told the delegation that in proclaiming a Year of Mercy he wanted not only to encourage people to contemplate how merciful God is, but also to focus on ways to make the witness they give to God’s mercy more effective.
“Divine mercy frees us of the burden of past conflicts and lets us be open to the future to which the Spirit is guiding us,” he said.
St. Peter, who had denied Jesus, and St. Paul, who had persecuted the early Christian community, both had powerful experiences of God’s forgiveness and great mercy, the pope said. They became “tireless evangelizers and fearless witnesses to the salvation offered by God in Christ to every man and woman.”
With St. Peter and St. Paul, he said, Christians are united in their experience of being forgiven and receiving God’s mercy and grace.
Before the split of the churches of the East and West in the 11th century, he said, the church of Rome and the church of Constantinople were united despite differences “in the liturgical sphere, in ecclesiastical discipline and also in the manner of formulating the one revealed truth.”
“However,” the pope said, “beyond the concrete shapes that our churches have taken on over time, there has always been the same experience of God’s infinite love for our smallness and frailty and the same calling to bear witness to this love before the world.”
Copyright (c) 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops