Bartholomew I was invited by el-Tayyib to participate to the International Conference on Peace, during which Francis and the Grand Imam are expected to speak. The Orthodox Patriarch had mentioned at the end of Easter Divine Liturgy about the possibility of traveling to Egypt as reported by Alberto Negri on the newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore on 16 April. Bartholomew had disclosed a handwritten letter from the Pope, in which Francis thanked him for his friendship and hoped to see him again soon. So, the Patriarch added, "The opportunity could be very close: I have also been invited by the University of Al Azhar in Cairo and on April 28 I could be with Pope Francis at that same event”
Sources close to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople confirmed to Vatican Insider that the decision to accept the invitation has been taken, and that Bartholomew will be in Cairo. The friendship between the bishops of Rome and Constantinople, successors of the apostles and brothers Peter and Andrew, have always been very friendly. Francis and Bartholomew together went to the Holy Land in May 2014 and together prayed in the Holy Sepulcher. A few days later, the Pope asked for the Patriarch’s presence in the Vatican gardens during a prayer for peace in the region. The following November, Francis visited Turkey and participated in the liturgical celebration of St. Andrew in the patriarchal church of Fanar. A year ago, in April 2016, Bartholomew invited Francis for a flash visit to the Greek island of Lesbos, home of a large refugee camp, during what was the Pope’s first entirely "ecumenical" journey, since Francis always remained next to the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Orthodox archbishop of Athens Hyeronimos without any specific celebrations or meetings aimed at the Catholic community specifically.
The simultaneous presence of the Pope and the Orthodox Patriarch at the meeting in the great Sunni university, just a few days after the attacks that have bloodied the Passover of the Copts in Egypt is thus an eloquent sign of unity and proximity among Christians of different denominations, while it also expresses the will to dialogue together with those Muslims who reject violence and justification of terrorism and massacres in the name of religion.
Note of our blog
About the visit of the Ecumenican Patriarch in the Egypt, please, see:
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (Greek: Οικουμενικό Πατριαρχείο Κωνσταντινουπόλεως, Oikoumenikó Patriarkhío Konstantinoupóleos, IPA: [ikumenikˈon patriarˈçion konstandinuˈpoleos]; Latin: Patriarchatus Oecumenicus Constantinopolitanus; Turkish: Rum Ortodoks Patrikhanesi, "Roman Orthodox Patriarchate") is one of the fourteen autocephalous churches (or "jurisdictions") that together compose the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is headed by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, currently Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople.
Because of its historical location at the capital of the former Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and its role as the Mother Church of most modern Orthodox churches, the Ecumenical Patriarchate holds a special place of honor within Orthodoxy and serves as the seat for the Ecumenical Patriarch, who enjoys the status of Primus inter pares (first among equals) among the world's Eastern Orthodox prelates and is widely regarded as the representative and spiritual leader of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate promotes the expansion of the Christian faith and the Orthodox doctrine, and the Ecumenical Patriarchs are involved in ecumenism and interfaith dialogue, charitable work, and the defense of Orthodox Christian traditions. Prominent issues in the Ecumenical Patriarchate's policy include the safety of the believers in the Middle East, the reconciliation of the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Churches, and the reopening of the Theological School of Halki which has been closed down by the Turkish authorities in 1971.
"The Great Church of Christ"
Prior to the moving of the imperial capital, the bishop of Byzantium had been under the authority of the metropolitan of Heraclea, but beginning in the 4th century, he grew to become independent in his own right and even to exercise authority throughout what is now Greece, Asia Minor, Pontus, and Thrace. With the development of the hierarchical structure of the Church, the bishop of Constantinople came to be styled as exarch (a position superior to metropolitan). Constantinople was recognized as the fourth patriarchate at the First Council of Constantinople in 381, after Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome. The patriarch was usually appointed by Antioch.
Because of the importance of the position of Constantinople's church at the center of the Roman Empire, affairs involving the various churches outside Constantinople's direct authority came to be discussed in the capital, particularly where the intervention of the emperor was desired. The patriarch naturally became a liaison between the emperor and bishops traveling to the capital, thus establishing the position of the patriarch as one involving the unity of the whole Church, particularly in the East.
In turn, the affairs of the Constantinopolitan church were overseen not just by the patriarch, but also by synods held including visiting bishops. This pan-Orthodox synod came to be referred to as the ενδημουσα συνοδος (endimousa synodos, "resident synod"). The resident synod not only governed the business of the patriarchate but also examined questions pertinent to the whole Church as well as the eastern half of the old empire.
The patriarch thus came to have the title of Ecumenical, which referenced not a universal episcopacy over other bishops, but rather the position of the patriarch as at the center of the oikoumeni, the "household" of the empire.
As the Roman Empire stabilized and grew, so did the influence of the patriarchate at its capital. This influence came to be enshrined in Orthodox canon law, to such an extent that it was elevated even beyond more ancient patriarchates: Canon 3 of the First Council of Constantinople (381) stated that the bishop of that city "shall have primacy of honor after the Bishop of Rome because Constantinople is the New Rome."
In any case, for almost a thousand years the Patriarch of Constantinople presided over the church in the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and its missionary activity that brought the Christian faith in its Byzantine form to many peoples north of the imperial borders. The cathedral church of Constantinople, Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), was the center of religious life in the eastern Christian world.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate came to be called the "Great Church of Christ" and it was the touchstone and reference point for ecclesiastical affairs in the East, whether in terms of church government, relations with the state, or liturgical matters.
About the Pope’s visit, please, if you want, see our post Regarding the Pope’s visit to Lesvos Island, Greece (& here):
I love the pope & the Roman Catholic faithful, but... an abysmal chasm separates the Roman Catholicism from the Orthodox Church...
Pope Francis is firstly a political persona – the head of the Vatican State, with immense influence internationally, as rumoured – and secondly a religious one. Therefore, his visit to Lesvos Island in view of the refugee problem should be seen as the visit of a political leader. The pope is a religious leader, only for the Roman-Catholic faithful. For us Orthodox, the pope is the head of a heresy – in fact, perhaps the most virulent kind: an omnipotent heresy, with immense wealth and political power, who holds captive entire nations in central and western Europe as well as in Latin America - and generally in various places all over the globe.
Roman Catholic faithful are undoubtedly our brethren and fellow-man, and somewhat similar to us in faith and ethos. We embrace them, and we should embrace them, 100%, with in-Christ love; however, they must realize that from a religious aspect, the Organization in which they belong (the "Roman Catholic Church") did NOT preserve, and has continued to NOT preserve authentic Christianity, for the past thousand years. It is by NO means the continuation of the ancient Church, but rather a deviation from it. The western European Saints of the first millennium A.D. belong to the same (Orthodox) spiritual tradition to this day, but not with the Christians of those same European lands, who inhabited them during the following millennium, when Catholicism had eventually prevailed.
The above are substantiated, by invoking the witness of many Roman Catholics (but also Protestants), who became Orthodox Christians after thorough, serious research into the sources of ancient Christianity – as, for example, the assassinated bishop of Nazianzo, Paul De Ballester, also Fathers Seraphim Bell, Gabriel Bunge, Placide Deseille and innumerable others (many interesting cases can be found in the website «Roman Catholics met Orthodoxy»).
As an Orthodox Christian, I love the pope also; which is why I pray (and propose, even though I am sure it is futile) that he return to the ancient tradition of Christianity – Orthodoxy – so that he himself may be saved, along with all the members of his religious organization which is referred to as “Catholic” or “Roman Catholic”.
Photo from here
During the last decades many orthodox hierarchs – even patriarchs – have made several important good will steps by approaching the popes of the time as well as Roman Catholic hierarchs, priests and faithful in general. Those steps continue to this day, but I doubt that they are achieving the desired result, that is, to help our Roman Catholic brethren return to the ancient Church. This is the reason I am not pleased at the sight of the Archbishop of Athens and the Ecumenical Patriarch accompanying the pope or behaving as if he is an acceptable religious leader of an acceptable Christian community – that is, of a canonical, local Church. Say what we might, but things are not the way they should be. The utmost caution is necessary.
An abysmal chasm separates the Roman Catholicism from the Orthodox Church. The Roman Catholic bishops have recently been projecting the assertion that “we are very close”. Quite the contrary. The God of the Roman Catholics is an austere judge, who judges man and either acquits him or condemns him –literally– to an eternal punishment. The God that the Orthodox believe in, does not, per se, judge man, but rather, invites him to become united with Him and attain deification (theosis), which is the state of holiness. The stubborn refusal of God’s love by an impenitent person transforms the presence of the divine Light in that person’s life into Hell, when God’s desire is that all people eventually be found in Paradise.
According to Roman Catholicism, Christ became man in order that He be punished instead of mankind, thus satisfying the Father’s sense of justice, which had been offended on account of man’s Original Sin. According to the Orthodox Church however (as well as the ancient Christians), Christ became man because the Triadic God so loved the world, that even from the beginning of Time (or, more correctly, pre-eternally), He had the desire to be united with mankind and to invite them to a union with Him. But according to the Roman Catholic view, the UNION of man with God is nonexistent; only judgment and condemnation or acquittal of man by God.
This notion – which is linked to many other theological and philosophical differences between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics – is the reason for Catholicism’s cruel stance towards people, as far back as the Medieval era. We are therefore in no way “close” to Roman Catholics.
If Pope Francis truly desires to help people, then he should utilize his political and financial powers, being the political persona that he is, in order to intervene in international politics, with a dual objective:
- to accommodate the refugees in a more suitable space (and not in a country that has collapsed financially and socially), and
- to demand the cessation of the wars in Asia and Africa, which were the cause of the refugee problem in the first place, and are also the cause of the massive emigrations of people during recent years. If he does this, he will not automatically cease to be the head of a devastating heresy, but will surely be recognized in human History and – who knows – perhaps even in the eyes of the loving God, whom he is supposedly honouring.
About Islam, please, our brothers and sisters, see these our posts:
Islam (tag in the other ouf blog)
Apostle Paul, the Christian equivalent to Mohammed
The Penalties for Apostasy in Islam
Traditionalist View on Sex Slavery in Islam
The Orthodox Christian sentiment regarding the persecutions of Christians by Islamists
Basic Points of Difference between the Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church
Protestants ask: Why be Orthodox?
The Road to Rome? Why Orthodoxy Deserves a Look
A Letter from an Orthodox Christian to our Native Americans Brothers
Fr. Eustratios Demou (papa Stratis), a Good Samaritan of migrants in Greece († September 2, 2015). Memory Eternal!