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May 25, 2014: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew And Pope Francis Pray Together At Holy Sepulcher

JERUSALEM – His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and His Holiness Pope Francis celebrated a fifty-year milestone today, continuing the legacy of their predecessors Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. Meeting at the Apostolic Delegation in the Old City of Jerusalem, the worldwide heads of the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches signed a Joint Declaration affirming their commitment to and anticipation of full sacramental unity in obedience to the commandment of Jesus Christ that his "disciples may be one." They also expressed their profound concern for the plight of Christians in the Middle East and reaffirmed their fervent commitment to respect and protect God's creation. Finally, they underlined the importance of dialogue among the world's religions.

After the Joint Declaration was signed, the two global Christian leaders proceeded to the Church of the Resurrection, where they venerated the Holy Sepulcher, the Tomb of Christ. Following some private moments in the Cenotaph, they offered an ecumenical prayer of thanksgiving, which was attended by other local Christian leaders and faithful from all over the world. In his address, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said:

Fifty years ago, two great church leaders, the late Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, cast out fear; they cast away from themselves the fear which had prevailed for a millennium, a fear which had kept the two ancient Churches of the West and East at a distance from one another. And so here we are with His Holiness Pope Francis, as their successors, following in their footsteps and honoring their heroic initiative. We have exchanged an embrace of love, even as we continue along the path toward full communion with one another in love and truth in order that the world may believe that no other way leads to life except the way of love, reconciliation, genuine peace and fidelity to the Truth.

The Joint Declaration and full remarks of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew may be found at: http://www.apostolicpilgrimage.org

The decision to commemorate the 1964 meeting of Paul VI and Athenagoras was initiated by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew during the installation of the new Pontiff in March of 2013. This was the first documented occasion in history that an Ecumenical Patriarch attended the installation of the Bishop of Rome. During those celebratory days, the agreement to commemorate this remarkable anniversary was born in their private meeting.

Subsequently, both leaders announced their intention to meet in Jerusalem to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the meeting of their predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. That meeting, in 1964, was the first time an Ecumenical Patriarch and a Pope assembled in over five hundred years. The historic encounter led to the Lifting of the Anathemas (December 7, 1965) that had separated the two Churches since 1054.

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

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