JOINT DECLARATION OF POPE FRANCIS AND THE ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW: OUR COMMON SEARCH DOES NOT DISTANCE US FROM THE TRUTH
Vatican City, 26 May 2014 (VIS) – After the welcome ceremony at Tel Aviv airport, the Pope transferred by helicopter to Jerusalem where, at the Apostolic Delegation, he met with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, who was accompanied by three high dignitaries. The meeting was also attended by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
The Patriarch Bartholomew was elected in 1991 as the 270th Patriarch archbishop of Constantinople, the New Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch. He visited Benedict XVI in the Vatican in 2008 and participated in the celebration of the second millennium since the birth of St. Paul. On 19 March 20123 he attended the Mass of the beginning of Pope Francis’ Petrine ministry; it was the first time since the Great Schism of 1054 that an Orthodox patriarch was present at the inauguration ceremony of a Catholic pope.
Following the meeting, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew signed the following Joint Declaration:
“1. Like our venerable predecessors Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras who met here in Jerusalem fifty years ago, we too, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, were determined to meet in the Holy Land ‘where our common Redeemer, Christ our Lord, lived, taught, died, rose again, and ascended into Heaven, whence he sent the Holy Spirit on the infant Church’ (Common communiqué of Pope Paul VI and
Patriarch Athenagoras, published after their meeting of 6 January 1964). Our meeting, another encounter of the Bishops of the Churches of Rome and Constantinople founded respectively by the two Brothers the Apostles Peter and Andrew, is a source of profound spiritual joy for us. It presents a providential occasion to reflect on the depth and the authenticity of our existing bonds, themselves the fruit of a grace-filled journey on which the Lord has guided us since that blessed day of fifty years ago.
2. Our fraternal encounter today is a new and necessary step on the journey towards the unity to which only the Holy Spirit can lead us, that of communion in legitimate diversity. We call to mind with profound gratitude the steps that the Lord has already enabled us to undertake. The embrace exchanged between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras here in Jerusalem, after many centuries of silence, paved the way for a momentous gesture, the removal from the memory and from the midst of the Church of the acts of mutual excommunication in 1054. This was followed by an exchange of visits between the respective Sees of Rome and Constantinople, by regular correspondence and, later, by the decision announced by Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Dimitrios, of blessed memory both, to initiate a theological dialogue of truth between Catholics and Orthodox. Over these years, God, the source of all peace and love, has taught us to regard one another as members of the same Christian family, under one Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and to love one another, so that we may confess our faith in the same Gospel of Christ, as received by the Apostles and expressed and transmitted to us by the Ecumenical Councils and the Church Fathers. While fully aware of not having reached the goal of full communion, today we confirm our commitment to continue walking together towards the unity for which Christ our Lord prayed to the Father so ‘that all may be one’.
3. Well aware that unity is manifested in love of God and love of neighbour, we look forward in eager anticipation to the day in which we will finally partake together in the Eucharistic banquet. As Christians, we are called to prepare to receive this gift of Eucharistic communion, according to the teaching of Saint Irenaeus of Lyon, through the confession of the one faith, persevering prayer, inner conversion, renewal of life and fraternal dialogue. By achieving this hoped for goal, we will manifest to the world the love of God by which we are recognized as true disciples of Jesus Christ.
4. To this end, the theological dialogue undertaken by the Joint International Commission offers a fundamental contribution to the search for full communion among Catholics and Orthodox. Throughout the subsequent times of Popes John Paul II and Benedict the XVI, and Patriarch Dimitrios, the progress of our theological encounters has been substantial. Today we express heartfelt appreciation for the achievements to date, as well as for the current endeavours. This is no mere theoretical exercise, but an exercise in truth and love that demands an ever deeper knowledge of each other’s traditions in order to understand them and to learn from them. Thus we affirm once again that the theological dialogue does not seek a theological lowest common denominator on which to reach a compromise, but is rather about deepening one’s grasp of the whole truth that Christ has given to his Church, a truth that we never cease to understand better as we follow the Holy Spirit’s promptings. Hence, we affirm together that our faithfulness to the Lord demands fraternal encounter and true dialogue. Such a common pursuit does not lead us away from the truth; rather, through an exchange of gifts, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it will lead us into all truth.
5. Yet even as we make this journey towards full communion we already have the duty to offer common witness to the love of God for all people by working together in the service of humanity, especially in defending the dignity of the human person at every stage of life and the sanctity of family based on marriage, in promoting peace and the common good, and in responding to the suffering that continues to afflict our world. We acknowledge that hunger, poverty, illiteracy, the inequitable distribution of resources must constantly be addressed. It is our duty to seek to build together a just and humane society in which no-one feels excluded or marginalised.
6. It is our profound conviction that the future of the human family depends also on how we safeguard – both prudently and compassionately, with justice and fairness – the gift of creation that our Creator has entrusted to us. Therefore, we acknowledge in repentance the wrongful mistreatment of our planet, which is tantamount to sin before the eyes of God. We reaffirm our responsibility and obligation to foster a sense of humility and moderation so that all may feel the need to respect creation and to safeguard it with care. Together, we pledge our commitment to raising awareness about the stewardship of creation; we appeal to all people of goodwill to consider ways of living less wastefully and more frugally, manifesting less greed and more generosity for the protection of God’s world and the benefit of His people.
7. There is likewise an urgent need for effective and committed cooperation of Christians in order to safeguard everywhere the right to express publicly one’s faith and to be treated fairly when promoting that which Christianity continues to offer to contemporary society and culture. In this regard, we invite all Christians to promote an authentic dialogue with Judaism, Islam and other religious traditions. Indifference and mutual ignorance can only lead to mistrust and unfortunately even conflict.
8. From this holy city of Jerusalem, we express our shared profound concern for the situation of Christians in the Middle East and for their right to remain full citizens of their homelands. In trust we turn to the almighty and merciful God in a prayer for peace in the Holy Land and in the Middle East in general. We especially pray for the Churches in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, which have suffered most grievously due to recent events. We encourage all parties regardless of their religious convictions to continue to work for reconciliation and for the just recognition of peoples’ rights. We are persuaded that it is not arms, but dialogue, pardon and reconciliation that are the only possible means to achieve peace.
9. In an historical context marked by violence, indifference and egoism, many men and women today feel that they have lost their bearings. It is precisely through our common witness to the good news of the Gospel that we may be able to help the people of our time to rediscover the way that leads to truth, justice and peace. United in our intentions, and recalling the example, fifty years ago here in Jerusalem, of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, we call upon all Christians, together with believers of every religious tradition and all people of good will, to recognise the urgency of the hour that compels us to seek the reconciliation and unity of the human family, while fully respecting legitimate differences, for the good of all humanity and of future generations.
10. In undertaking this shared pilgrimage to the site where our one same Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and rose again, we humbly commend to the intercession of the Most Holy and Ever Virgin Mary our future steps on the path towards the fullness of unity, entrusting to God’s infinite love the entire human family.
‘May the Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!’”.
Jerusalem, 25 May 2014.
ECUMENICAL ENCOUNTER IN THE HOLY SEPULCHRE: LET US NOT DEPRIVE THE WORLD OF THE PROCLAMATION OF THE RESURRECTION
Vatican City, 26 May 2014 (VIS) – After signing the Joint Declaration, the Holy Father and the Patriarch Bartholomew went to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre to take part in an ecumenical celebration. The Pope entered the Square by the Muristan arch, while the Patriarch entered by the gate of St. Helena. The celebration continued with the participation of the Ordinaries of the Holy Land, the Syrian archbishop, the Ethiopian archbishop, the Anglican bishop, the Lutheran bishop, and others. It was also attended by the general consuls of the five countries who guarantee the “Statu quo” of the Basilica (France, Belgium, Spain, Italy and Greece), and the other consuls of the “Corpus separatum” of Jerusalem (Switzerland, the United States, Turkey, and the United Kingdom).
The Holy Sepulchre is, according to tradition, the place where the burial, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ took place. After the repression of the Jewish revolt in 135, Jerusalem underwent a radical change: the Jews, Samaritans and Judeo-Christians were expelled and their return was prohibited. Hadrian, with the intention of eliminating every trace of the religion that had provoked two violent revolts, destroyed all places of worship, and the Holy Sepulchre suffered the same fate: it was razed to the ground, its cavities filled with earth, and a temple to the goddess Venus-Ishtar was built over it. During the first ecumenical Council of Nicaea, the bishop of Jerusalem, Macarius, invited the emperor Constantine to restore to light the Holy Sepulchre, which, beneath the rubble, was perfectly preserved. The Basilica of the Resurrection to be built there at the behest of the Empress Helena, mother of Constantine, and went on to have a tumultuous history throughout the centuries. The stone that sealed the tomb was broken during the Persian invasion of 614 and it went on to suffer further damages until the decision of the Crusaders in 1099 to enclose all the monuments to the death and Resurrection of Christ in a single building, which remained almost unaltered until the end of the nineteenth century. Further damages resulted from the earthquake in 1927 and the first Arab-Israel war in 1948.
The Basilica continues to be regulated according to the “Statu quo”, and it is the property of three communities: the Latins (represented by the Friars Minor), the Greek Orthodox and the Armenian Orthodox; the Coptic Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox and the Ethiopian Orthodox may officiate in the Basilica. At the entrance, in the atrium, there is the Stone of the Anointing, which according to tradition indicates the place where Jesus, deposed from the Cross, was anointed.
Pope Francis and the Patriarch Bartholomew were received by the three superiors of the communities of the “Statu Quo” (Greek Orthodox, Franciscan and Armenian Apostolic). The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III and the Custodian of Jerusalem, Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M. Cap., and the Armenian Apostolic Patriarch, His Beatitude Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, venerated the Stone of the Anointing, followed by the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch.
After the proclamation of the Gospel and the words of Patriarch Bartholomew, the Holy Father gave an address in which he commented that the Basilica, “which all Christians regard with the deepest veneration”, his pilgrimage in the company of my “beloved brother in Christ, His Holiness Bartholomew, now reaches its culmination. We are making this pilgrimage in the footsteps of our venerable predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, who, with courage and docility to the Holy Spirit, made possible, fifty years ago, in this holy city of Jerusalem, an historic meeting between the Bishop of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople. I cordially greet all of you who are present. In a special way I express my heartfelt gratitude to those who have made this moment possible: His Beatitude Theophilos, who has welcomed us so graciously, His Beatitude Nourhan Manougian and Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa”.
“It is an extraordinary grace to be gathered here in prayer”, he continued. “The empty tomb, that new garden grave where Joseph of Arimathea had reverently placed Jesus’ body, is the place from which the proclamation of the resurrection begins. … This proclamation, confirmed by the testimony of those to whom the risen Lord appeared, is the heart of the Christian message, faithfully passed down from generation to generation. … This is the basis of the faith which unites us, whereby together we profess that Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of the Father and our sole Lord, ‘suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead’. Each of us, everyone baptised in Christ, has spiritually risen from this tomb, for in baptism all of us truly became members of the body of the One who is the Firstborn of all creation; we were buried together with him, so as to be raised up with him and to walk in newness of life”.
“Let us receive the special grace of this moment. We pause in reverent silence before this empty tomb in order to rediscover the grandeur of our Christian vocation: we are men and women of resurrection, and not of death. From this place we learn how to live our lives, the trials of our Churches and of the whole world, in the light of Easter morning. … Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the basis of our hope! Let us not deprive the world of the joyful message of the resurrection! And let us not be deaf to the powerful summons to unity which rings out from this very place, in the words of the One who, risen from the dead, calls all of us ‘my brothers’”.
“Clearly we cannot deny the divisions which continue to exist among us, the disciples of Jesus”, he observed. “This sacred place makes us even more painfully aware of how tragic they are. And yet, fifty years after the embrace of those two venerable Fathers, we realise with gratitude and renewed amazement how it was possible, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, to take truly significant steps towards unity. We know that much distance still needs to be travelled before we attain that fullness of communion which can also be expressed by sharing the same Eucharistic table, something we ardently desire; yet our disagreements must not frighten us and paralyse our progress. We need to believe that, just as the stone before the tomb was cast aside, so too every obstacle to our full communion will also be removed. This will be a grace of resurrection, of which we can have a foretaste even today. Every time we ask forgiveness of one another for our sins against other Christians and every time we find the courage to grant and receive such forgiveness, we experience the resurrection! Every time we put behind us our long-standing prejudices and find the courage to build new fraternal relationships, we confess that Christ is truly risen! Every time we reflect on the future of the Church in the light of her vocation to unity, the dawn of Easter breaks forth! Here I reiterate the hope already expressed by my predecessors for a continued dialogue with all our brothers and sisters in Christ, aimed at finding a means of exercising the specific ministry of the Bishop of Rome which, in fidelity to his mission, can be open to a new situation and can be, in the present context, a service of love and of communion acknowledged by all”.
“Standing as pilgrims in these holy places, we also remember in our prayers the entire Middle East, so frequently and lamentably marked by acts of violence and conflict. Nor do we forget in our prayers the many other men and women who in various parts of our world are suffering from war, poverty and hunger, as well as the many Christians who are persecuted for their faith in the risen Lord. When Christians of different confessions suffer together, side by side, and assist one another with fraternal charity, there is born an ecumenism of suffering, an ecumenism of blood, which proves particularly powerful not only for those situations in which it occurs, but also, by virtue of the communion of the saints, for the whole Church as well. Those who kill, who persecute Christians out of hatred, do not ask if they are Orthodox or Catholics: they are Christians. The blood of Christians is the same”.
Finally, addressing Bartholomew and all those present, he said, “Your Holiness, beloved brother, dear brothers and sisters all, let us put aside the misgivings we have inherited from the past and open our hearts to the working of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love, in order to hasten together towards that blessed day when our full communion will be restored. In making this journey, we feel ourselves sustained by the prayer which Jesus himself, in this city, on the eve of his passion, death and resurrection, offered to the Father for his disciples. It is a prayer which we ourselves in humility never tire to make our own: ‘that they may all be one… that the world may believe’. And when disunity makes us pessimistic, distrusting, fearful, let us all commend ourselves to the protection of the Holy Mother of God. When there is spiritual turmoil in the Christian soul, it is only by seeking refuge under her mantle that we can find peace. May the Holy Mother of God help us on this journey”.
After this discourse, the Pope and the Patriarch embraced as a sign of peace and prayed the Lord’s Prayer together in Italian, while the others present did so in their own languages. They then entered the Sepulchre to venerate the empty tomb, after which they ascended to the Basilica together to bless the people. They then continued to Mount Calvary, accompanied by the Greek and Armenian Patriarchs and the Custodian of the Holy Land, to venerate the place of Jesus’ death and crucifixion.
THE POPE AT THE ESPLANADE OF THE MOSQUES: MAY NO-ONE ABUSE THE NAME OF GOD FOR VIOLENT ENDS
Vatican City, 26 May 2014 (VIS) – Early this morning the Holy Father visited the Esplanade of the Mosques, or Temple Mount. An artificial esplanade, trapezoid in shape, it occupies a sixth of the surface area of the Old City. This area is significant for the three monotheistic religions, and is thrice holy: for Jews, it is the place where Abraham would have sacrificed Isaac, as well as the site of the Temple of Solomon; for Muslims, it is the third destination for pilgrims after Mecca and Medina; and for Christians, it is the place of Christ’s prophecy of the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem. In the area there are two of most important Muslim shrines, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
The Pope’s car entered by the al-Asbat gate and arrived at the entrance of the Dome of the Rock, where he was received by the Great Mufti Muhammad Ahmad Husayn, supreme judicial-religious authority of Jerusalem and the Arab Muslim people in Palestine, and the director-general of the council of the “Waqf” (Islamic religious assets). After a brief visit he was accompanied to the Al-Kubbah Al-Nahawiyya building, where he was awaited by the high representatives of the Islamic community.
“Following in the footsteps of my predecessors, and in particular the historic visit of Pope Paul VI fifty years ago, the first visit of a Pope to the Holy Land, I have greatly desired to come as a pilgrim to the places which witnessed the earthly presence of Jesus Christ”, said the Pope. But my pilgrimage would not be complete if it did not also include a meeting with the people and the communities who live in this Land. I am particularly happy, therefore, to be with you, dear Muslim faithful, brothers. Francis recalled Abraham, “who lived as a pilgrim in these lands. Muslims, Christians and Jews see in him, albeit in different ways, a father in faith and a great example to be imitated. He became a pilgrim, leaving his own people and his own house in order to embark on that spiritual adventure to which God called him”.
The Pope went on to describe a pilgrim as, like Abraham, “a person who makes himself poor and sets forth on a journey. Pilgrims set out intently toward a great and longed-for destination, and they live in the hope of a promise received. This was how Abraham lived, and this should be our spiritual attitude. We can never think ourselves self-sufficient, masters of our own lives. We cannot be content with remaining withdrawn, secure in our convictions. Before the mystery of God we are all poor. We realise that we must constantly be prepared to go out from ourselves, docile to God’s call and open to the future that he wishes to create for us.
“In our earthly pilgrimage we are not alone. We cross paths with other faithful; at times we share with them a stretch of the road and at other times we experience with them a moment of rest which refreshes us. Such is our meeting today, for which I am particularly grateful. It is a welcome and shared moment of rest, made possible by your hospitality, on the pilgrimage of our life and that of our communities. We are experiencing a fraternal dialogue and exchange which are able to restore us and offer us new strength to confront the common challenges before us”.
“Nor can we forget that the pilgrimage of Abraham was also a summons to righteousness”, he continued. “God wanted him to witness his way of acting and to imitate him. We too wish to witness to God’s working in the world, and so, precisely in this meeting, we hear deep within us his summons to work for peace and justice, to implore these gifts in prayer and to learn from on high mercy, magnanimity and compassion”.
In conclusion, the Pope launched an appeal to “all communities who look to Abraham: may we respect and love one another as brothers and sisters! May we learn to understand the sufferings of others! May no one abuse the name of God through violence! May we work together for justice and peace! Salaam!”
POPE FRANCIS AT THE WESTERN WALL
Vatican City, 25 May 2014 (VIS) – At 8 a.m. the Pope transferred from Temple Mount to the Western Wall, or “Wailing Wall”. Fifteen metres high, this wall is a place of worship for the Jews for historical and religious reasons, and is linked to numerous traditions such as that of leaving prayers written on small pieces of paper between the blocks of the wall. Francis was received by the Chief Rabbi, who accompanied him to the wall. The Pope prayed in silence before the wall and, like his predecessors, left a piece of paper on which he had written the Lord’s Prayer; he said, “I have written it in Spanish because it is the language I learned from my mother”.
He then proceeded to Monte Herzl where, in accordance with protocol on official visits and assisted by a Christian boy and girl, he left a wreath of flowers in the Israel national cemetery at the tomb of Theodore Herzl, founder of the Zionist movement. The Holy Father also strayed slightly from his itinerary to pray at a tomb for the victims of terrorism in Israel.
He then travelled by car to the Yad Vashem Memorial, a monument built in 1953 by the State of Israel to commemorate the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Along with the president and director of the Centre, the Pope walked around the perimeter of the Mausoleum before entering the Remembrance Hall, where he was awaited by the president, the prime minister, and the Rabbi president of the Council of Yad Vashem. Inside the Hall there is a monument with an eternal flame positioned in front of the crypt, which contains several urns with the ashes of victims of various concentration camps. The Pope lit the flame, placed a yellow and white floral wreath in the Mausoleum and, before his address, read from the Old Testament. He then spoke briefly about strength and the pain of man’s inhuman evil and on the “structures of sin” that oppose the dignity of the human person, created in the image and semblance of God.
“’Adam, where are you?’. Where are you, o man? What have you come to? In this place, this memorial of the Shoah, we hear God’s question echo once more: ‘Adam, where are you?’ This question is charged with all the sorrow of a Father who has lost his child. The Father knew the risk of freedom; he knew that his children could be lost… yet perhaps not even the Father could imagine so great a fall, so profound an abyss! Here, before the boundless tragedy of the Holocaust, that cry – “Where are you?” – echoes like a faint voice in an unfathomable abyss…
“Adam, who are you? I no longer recognise you. Who are you, o man? What have you become? Of what horror have you been capable? What made you fall to such depths? Certainly it is not the dust of the earth from which you were made. The dust of the earth is something good, the work of my hands. Certainly it is not the breath of life which I breathed into you. That breath comes from me, and it is something good.
“No, this abyss is not merely the work of your own hands, your own heart… Who corrupted you? Who disfigured you? Who led you to presume that you are the master of good and evil? Who convinced you that you were god? Not only did you torture and kill your brothers and sisters, but you sacrificed them to yourself, because you made yourself a god.
“Today, in this place, we hear once more the voice of God: “Adam, where are you?”
“From the ground there rises up a soft cry: ‘Have mercy on us, O Lord!’ To you, O Lord our God, belongs righteousness; but to us confusion of face and shame.
“A great evil has befallen us, such as never happened under the heavens. Now, Lord, hear our prayer, hear our plea, save us in your mercy. Save us from this horror.
“Almighty Lord, a soul in anguish cries out to you. Hear, Lord, and have mercy! We have sinned against you. You reign for ever. Remember us in your mercy. Grant us the grace to be ashamed of what we men have done, to be ashamed of this massive idolatry, of having despised and destroyed our own flesh which you formed from the earth, to which you gave life with your own breath of life. Never again, Lord, never again!
“’Adam, where are you?’ Here we are, Lord, shamed by what man, created in your own image and likeness, was capable of doing. Remember us in your mercy”.
The Holy Father concluded his visit by speaking with some Holocaust survivors and signed the Yad Vashem Book of Honour, where he wrote: “With shame for what man, created in the image and likeness of God, was able to do. With shame that man become the patron of evil; with the shame for what man, believing himself to be god, sacrificed his brothers to himself. Never again! Never again!”
He bid farewell to the chorus and the authorities who had greeted him upon arrival, and left by car for the Heichal Shlomo Centre.