[Anglican Communion News Service] The news that the leader of the Orthodox Church will attend the inauguration of the new pope is being described as an historic moment for Christianity.
According to a report in Asia News, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew’s decision to attend the March 19 installation mass in Rome is the first time such an event has taken place since the Great Schism of 1054.
The Rev. Alyson Barnett-Cowan, director for Unity, Faith and Order, facilitates the Anglican Communion’s global dialogues with
other Christian world communions. Speaking from Rome, she said, “It is a sign of immense hope for the unity of Christians everywhere that the Ecumenical Patriarch, the leader of the Orthodox Church, will attend the inauguration of Pope Francis, the first time since the split of Eastern and Western Christians over a thousand years ago.”
Barnett-Cowan is part of the official Anglican Communion delegation for the inauguration.
It is reported that the Ecumenical Patriarch will be accompanied by Ioannis Zizioulas, Metropolitan of Pergamon and co-president of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church, as well as Orthodox Metropolitan Tarassios of Argentina, and Orthodox Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima of Italy.
Relations between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches have been improving since the Second Vatican Council through mutual visits, acts of friendship and theological dialogue.
Immediately following the election of Pope Francis on the evening of March 13, His All-Holiness wrote to Pope Francis: “In the joy and jubilation of Your election as the pastoral leader of Roman Catholic Christians throughout the world, we are communicating with Your Holiness in order to express to You and the devout faithful of Your blessed Church our wholehearted congratulations and sincerest salutations on this special day.
“Permit us also, on this historic occasion, to convey our unfeigned wishes and fervent prayers that your papal tenure may prove to be a source of peace in our world of turmoil and division, a refuge and consolation for our Lord’s poor and suffering brothers and sisters, as well as a continuation of our journey toward reconciliation and consolidation of the dialogue for the unity of our Sister Churches.
May God grant Your Holiness many years of healthy and fruitful ministry to serve His people with Your distinctive humility, simplicity, and charity.”