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Pope Francis: “Catholics and Orthodox were trapped in senseless misunderstandings for centuries”

On Thursday morning, 16 May 2024, Pope Francis received in an audience (and not in a usual general meeting) His Eminence Metropolitan Agathangelos of Fanari, director of the Apostoliki Diakonia ministry of the Church of Greece, who was accompanied by a delegation from the Theological College of Athens. The meeting was organised by the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.

For more than a decade, Apostoliki Diakonia of the Church of Greece has been organising, in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, free Greek language and literacy courses to understand the Patristic tradition, which take place annually at the Pontifical Oriental Studies Institute in the Vatican. In this context, scholarships are also awarded for undergraduate and postgraduate studies at Greek and Pontifical Universities. As a result, a large number of lay people and clergy studied in joint programs of the two Churches and today enjoy international prestige such as: His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, His Eminence Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinia and of course the director of Apostoliki Diakonia His Eminence Metropolitan Agathangelos of Fanari.

In his speech, Pope Francis underlined the important role that characterises the joint initiative of Apostoliki Diakonia and the Pontifical Council for the unity of Christians, an initiative towards joint cooperation, for the return of the faithful to complete unity in the Church of our Lord.

Pope Francis also underlined that despite the difficult times that Greece experienced, due to the economic crisis and then the Covid pandemic, Apostoliki Diakonia, always in cooperation with the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, strongly continued the cultural and their intellectual cooperation.

“I am happy”, emphasised Pope Francis, “for your efforts to transmit the ecumenical spirit of our Lord’s Church to young people”.

“Indeed, only young people who base their hopes on true faith in our Lord can break the bonds and prejudices of Catholics and Orthodox, who for centuries had been trapped in senseless misunderstandings and feelings, which prevented them from being recognised as true brothers and sisters, to express and bear witness to their common faith, in their diversity, especially today when our world is shaken by conflicts”, underlined Pope Francis.

At another point, the Pontiff said: “We must pray and walk all together. Our beloved brother Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon asked: When will we arrive at full unity? We don’t know, he said, maybe on the day of the final judgment, he repeated. But now we all have to march together and work together. Metropolitan John Zizioulas was indeed great. Really, good for him!”.

Finally, the Pope thanked His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, whom he characterised as a man of deep faith and important pastoral work, as well as for the support he gives to the work of Apostoliki Diakonia.

Source: / Rome, Mikos Tzoitis