As Pope Francis entered the building to meet with Archbishop Ieronymos II in Greece, he was accosted by a Greek Orthodox Cleric who said: “Pope, you are a heretic!”

During his meeting, he apologizes for all ways Catholics have caused division with with Orthodox Christians.

“Shamefully—I acknowledge this for the Catholic Church—actions and decisions that had little or nothing to do with Jesus and the Gospel, but were instead marked by a thirst for advantage and power, gravely weakened our communion. In this way, we let fruitfulness be compromised by division. History makes its weight felt, and here, today, I feel the need to ask anew for the forgiveness of God and of our brothers and sisters for the mistakes committed by many Catholics.”

Pope Francis also expressed optimism that their common roots as Christians will continue to bear fruit.

“It is a grace to recognize one another’s good fruits and to join in thanking the Lord for this. Underground, hidden, frequently overlooked, those roots are nonetheless there and they sustain everything. Saint Paul speaks of them when he stresses the importance of being ‘built upon the foundation of the apostles’. Tragically, in later times we grew apart. Worldly concerns poisoned us, weeds of suspicion increased our distance and we ceased to nurture communion.”

Ending his address to those gathered in the throne room of the Orthodox Archbishopric of Greece, Pope Francis prayed for Holy Spirit to help Orthodox and Catholics strengthen their ties.

“I pray that the Spirit of love will overcome every form of resistance and make us builders of communion. Indeed, ‘if love truly casts out fear and fear is transformed into love, then we will discover that what saves is unity.’ On the other hand, how can we testify before the world to the harmony of the Gospel, if we Christians remain separated? How can we proclaim the love of Christ who gathers the nations, if we ourselves are not united? Many steps have already been taken to bring us together. Let us implore the Spirit of communion to spur us to follow his lead and to help us base communion not on calculations, strategies and expedience, but on the one model to which we must look: the Most Holy Trinity.”

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  1. Dialogue, discernment, and bridge-building endeavors can bring about an union of hearts and minds among fellow mortals anywhere and everywhere.


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