According to a report by the Union of Orthodox Journalists, Patriarch Bartholomew said full communion with the Catholic Church is “inevitable.”

The report by the Union of Orthodox Journalists says Patriarch Bartholomew’s comments came during his trip last month to the Pantokrator Monastery on Mount Athos in Greece.

Bartholomew said the division between Orthodoxy and Catholicism is not dogmatic, but historical, and that Catholics are “exactly the same Christians as we are.” He cited Pope Francis gifting relics of Saint Peter as testimony to the Church’s closeness to Orthodoxy.

In a conversation with the Abbots of the Pantokrator, Xenophontos monastery, and Vatopedi monastery along with other brethren and guests, Bartholomew said to them that reunion is “inevitable.” The words of the patriarch, whose security did not allow to be recorded, left some perplexed, others in tears, but none protested.

Pope Francis also expressed his desire for ecumenism last Saturday on the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle. Following a long-standing custom, he sent a delegation to Istanbul led led by Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Koch participated in Mass at the Patriarchal Church of Saint George, afterwards handing Bartholomew a letter from Pope Francis which was read out at the end of Divine Liturgy.

“It is with great spiritual joy and in profound communion of faith and charity that I join the prayer of the Church of Constantinople in celebrating the feast of its holy patron, the Apostle Andrew, the first-called and brother of the Apostle Peter.”

In the letter, Pope Francis reaffirmed the desire for a reunion of the East and West, expressing his closeness and friendship with Bartholomew.

“Through the delegation, I convey the assurance of the unwavering intention of the Catholic Church, as well as my own, to continue in our commitment to working towards the reestablishment of full communion among the Christians of the East and the West. Beloved brother in Christ, to whom I am bound by a sincere and fraternal friendship, these are just some of the hopes and sentiments that fill my heart and that I wish to share with you on this joyous occasion.”

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