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May 24, 2014: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew In Bethlehem

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 24, 2014

JERUSALEM – His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of over 300 million Orthodox faithful worldwide, who is in Israel to meet with Pope Francis, today visited Bethlehem to venerate the sacred site of Christ' s Birth and pray with its shrinking Christian population. During his remarks at the Church of the Nativity, he noted:

You, the youth of Bethlehem, are the hope and the future of your homeland. Remain faithful to your historical mission and preserve unextinguished the flame of our Orthodox faith in this land, where the Lord initiated His work of salvation for the whole world. Your presence here as Orthodox Christians is of immense importance. Continue your work with the same passion. May God be with you!

In addition to the official Patriarchal delegation, more than eighty prominent laypersons from around the world are also accompanying the Ecumenical Patriarch. The official delegation includes preeminent Hierarchs of the Church of Constantinople, who lead the ecumenical and interfaith dialogues of the Orthodox Church worldwide.

Describing the presence of His All-Holiness in Bethlehem today, Archbishop Demetrios of America, a member of the Patriarchal delegation commented:

To see the Ecumenical Patriarch kneeling in prayer at the Cave of the Nativity, where Heaven and Earth were joined two thousand years ago, was truly inspiring. His All-Holiness came to this sacred place of the birth of Jesus Christ to pray for the Christians of Bethlehem, as well as for all people of faith in the Middle East. He understands the urgent need to strengthen the bonds of peace and love that have united the communities of this region for centuries despite ethnic and religious diversity. In this respect, the meeting between Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will not only enhance the dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, but also extend an invitation to people of all faiths and good will to engage in a dialogue of truth and love.

Tomorrow, Sunday May 25th, the Ecumenical Patriarch begins his meetings with Pope Francis in the Holy City, in remembrance of the 1964 meetings of their predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras. The first meeting will be held at the Apostolic Delegation in the Old City of Jerusalem, where the two leaders will sign a Joint Declaration. The second meeting will be at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher at an ecumenical Service of Thanksgiving. The third meeting will be on Monday the 26th at the residence of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives, where they will seal their pilgrimage and fraternal exchange.

His All-Holiness Bartholomew is the Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch. He is the 269th successor to the First-Called Apostle Andrew, the founder of the 2,000-year old local Christian Church of Constantinople. The Ecumenical Patriarch is a living witness to the world of Orthodoxy's painful and redemptive struggle for religious freedom and to the innate dignity of humankind. As a citizen of Turkey, His All-Holiness' personal experience provides him a unique perspective on the continuing dialogue among the Christian, Islamic and Jewish worlds. He is known throughout the world as the "Green Patriarch" for his groundbreaking environmental initiatives and ecological theology. For his inspiring efforts on behalf of religious freedom and human rights, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was heralded as a Bridge Builder and Peacemaker and awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by the U.S. Congress in 1997.

Additional information about the visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Pope of may be found at: http://www.apostolicpilgrimage.org

Additional information about the Ecumenical Patriarchate and His All-Holiness maybe found at: http://www.patriarchate.org

The Statement of His Holiness Pope Francis on the Jerusalem visit may be found at:

http://www.news.va/en/news/angelus-5-january-2014

The Statement of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew may be found at:

http://www.patriarchate.org/documents/jerusalem-2014-statement

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