Istanbul – Pope Francis who visited Turkey from November 28-30, celebrated with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, on Sunday, the Feast day of St. Andrew, the first-called of the Apostles and founder of the Church of Constantinople. Patriarch Bartholomew is considered a successor of Saint Andrew the Apostle.
This visit follows a tradition established by Pope Francis’ predecessors, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, to visit the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the Thronal Feast of St. Andrew.
Pope Francis attended the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral, where both prelates delivered official addresses, exchanged the kiss of peace and together blessed the faithful. After the Divine Liturgy, a joint declaration has been signed and the Patriarch hosted a luncheon for the Pope at the Patriarchate.
At the end of the service on Sunday morning (November 30), both prelates delivered official addresses, exchanged the kiss of peace and together blessed the faithful.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew welcomed Pope Francis at the Ataturk International airport in Istanbul. Accompanying the Ecumenical Patriarch to the airport were Elder Metropolitan John of Pergamon, Archbishop Demetrios of America and Grand Archdeacon Andreas Sofianopoulos.
From the airport, the Pope visited the old city, the St. Sophia Cathedral, and the Blue Mosque. He also attended a mass in the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, near the Beyoglu district of Istanbul, with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
Pope Francis arrived at the Fanar on Saturday afternoon. He was enthusiastically greeted with the ringing of church bells upon arrival at the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Pope was received at the patriarchal gate by the Elder Metropolitans of Nicaea and Chalcedon. The Ecumenical Patriarch then escorted the Pope into the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George.
The two leaders followed the Doxology Service, a prayer for thanksgiving and peace, after which they blessed the faithful crowded inside the Patriarchal Cathedral. Also in attendance were the consul generals of Istanbul.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew presented Pope Francis with an icon of St. George painted on Mt. Athos. In return, Pope Francis offered to His All-Holiness a facsimile copy of an eleventh-century Greek manuscript from the Vatican library and a copy of ninth-century mosaic of Christ from St. Peter’s Basilica.
Afterward, the Pope was received in the patriarchal office for a private discussion with His All-Holiness. Before leaving, Pope Francis was introduced the members of the Holy and Sacred Synod.
Archbishop Demetrios on America has been invited to attend this historic occasion. He is accompanied by a large number of Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, distinguished faithful from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Archdiocesan Byzantine Choir, which was expected to perform at Agia Irini Church on the evening of Sunday Nov. 30.
Pope Francis on Saturday stood alongside a top Islamic cleric in a moment of highly-symbolic contemplation at an Ottoman mosque, as he visited Istanbul on his first trip to the former capital of the Christian Byzantine world.
On the second day of his visit, Pope Francis toured key religious and historical sites in the city once known as Constantinople that was conquered by the Ottoman army in 1453.
The visit of the pope is seen as a crucial test of Francis’s ability to build bridges between faiths amid the rampage by Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Iraq and Syria and concerns over the persecution of Christian minorities in the Middle East.
The centrepiece of his morning tour was a closely scrutinised visit to the great Sultan Ahmet mosque — known abroad as the Blue Mosque and one of the great masterpieces of Ottoman architecture.
The pope paused for two minutes and clasped his hands in reflection, a gesture remarkably similar to that of his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI who visited the mosque on the last papal visit to Turkey in 2006.
The pope closed his eyes, clasped his hands in front of his chest beneath the cross he wears around his neck and bowed his head, as he stood next to Istanbul Mufti Rahmi Yaran who performed dua.
Like Pope Francis, Pope Benedict had turned towards Makkah in what many saw as a stunning gesture of reconciliation between Islam and Christianity.
A Vatican official described Pope Francis’ gesture as a “silent adoration”, using a term for religious reverence, making clear he did not perform a prayer.
“It was a beautiful moment of inter-religious dialogue. The same thing happened eight years ago with Benedict,” added Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi.
After talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Friday, the pope had called for dialogue between faiths to end the Islamist extremism plaguing the Middle East. Pope Francis also toured the Hagia Sophia, the great Byzantine church that was turned into a mosque after the conquest of Constantinople but then became a museum for all in modern day Turkey.
The leader of the world’s Roman Catholics then celebrated holy mass at the baroque mid-nineteenth century Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul.
Address by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to His Holiness Pope Francis during the Doxology in the Patriarchal Church on His Official Visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate (November 29, 2014)
In offering glory to the all-good God in Trinity, we welcome You and Your honorable entourage to this sacred place, the hierarchal See of the historical and martyric Church charged by divine providence with a profoundly responsible ministry as being the First-Throne among the local most holy Orthodox Churches. We welcome You with joy, honor and gratitude because You have deemed it proper to direct Your steps from the Old Rome to the New Rome, symbolically bridging West and East through this movement, while translating the love of the Chief Apostle to his brother, the First-Called Apostle.
Your advent here, being the first since the recent election of Your Holiness to the throne that “presides in love,” constitutes a continuation of similar visits by Your eminent predecessors Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, but also bears witness to Your own will and that of the most holy Church of Rome to maintain the fraternal and stable advance with the Orthodox Church for the restoration of full communion between our Churches. Therefore, it is with great satisfaction and appreciation that we greet the arrival here of Your Holiness as an historical event filled with favorable signs for the future.
This sacred space, where in the midst of diverse historical challenges Ecumenical Patriarchs have for centuries celebrated and celebrate the holy Mystery of the Divine Eucharist, constitutes a successor to other illustrious places of worship in this City, which have been brightened by renowned ecclesiastical personalities already adorning the choir of great Fathers of the universal Church. Such luminaries include our predecessors Saints Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom, whose sacred relics now lie in this holy church, thanks to their gracious return to the Ecumenical Patriarchate by the Church of Rome; their relics are alongside those of Basil the Great and Euphemia the Great Martyr, who validated the Tome of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, as well as other saints of the Church. This year marks the tenth anniversary since the blessed return of the relics of St. Gregory and St. John; wherefore, we express to Your Holiness our fervent thanks for this fraternal gesture on behalf of Your Church to our Patriarchate. May these holy Fathers, on whose teaching our common faith of the first millennium was founded, intercede for us to the Lord so that we may rediscover the full union of our Churches, thereby fulfilling His divine will in crucial times for humanity and the world. For, according to St. John Chrysostom: “This is what ultimately holds the faithful together and upholds love; indeed, this is precisely why Christ said that we should be one.” (Homily on Philippians 4.3 PG62.208)
We express once again the joy and gratitude of the most holy Church of Constantinople and of ourselves on this formal and fraternal visit of Your Holiness, and we wish You and Your honorable entourage an altogether blessed sojourn among us so that we may further increase our fraternal relations for the glory of His name.
“Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift.” (2 Cor. 9.15)
Welcome, beloved brother in the Lord!
Address by His Holiness Pope Francis to His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew during the Doxology in the Patriarchal Church (November 29, 2014)
Your Holiness, my dear Brother,
Each evening brings a mixed feeling of gratitude for the day which is ending and of hope-filled trust as night falls. This evening my heart is full of gratitude to God who allows me to be here in prayer with Your Holiness and with this sister Church after an eventful day during my Apostolic Visit. At the same time my heart awaits the day which we have already begun liturgically: the Feast of the Apostle Saint Andrew, Patron of this Church.
In the words of the prophet Zechariah, the Lord gives us anew in this evening prayer, the foundation that sustains our moving forward from one day to the next, the solid rock upon which we advance together in joy and hope. The foundation rock is the Lord’s promise: “Behold, I will save my people from the countries of the east and from the countries of the west… in faithfulness and in righteousness” (8:7.8).
Yes, my venerable and dear Brother Bartholomew, as I express my heartfelt “thank you” for your fraternal welcome, I sense that our joy is greater because its source is from beyond; it is not in us, not in our commitment, not in our efforts – that are certainly necessary – but in our shared trust in God’s faithfulness which lays the foundation for the reconstruction of his temple that is the Church (cf. Zech 8:9). “For there shall be a sowing of peace” (Zech 8:12); truly, a sowing of joy. It is the joy and the peace that the world cannot give, but which the Lord Jesus promised to his disciples and, as the Risen One, bestowed upon them in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Andrew and Peter heard this promise; they received this gift. They were blood brothers, yet their encounter with Christ transformed them into brothers in faith and charity. In this joyful evening, at this prayer vigil, I want to emphasize this; they became brothers in hope. What a grace, Your Holiness, to be brothers in the hope of the Risen Lord! What a grace, and what a responsibility, to walk together in this hope, sustained by the intercession of the holy Apostles and brothers, Andrew and Peter! And to know that this shared hope does non deceive us because it is founded, not upon us or our poor efforts, but rather upon God’s faithfulness.
With this joyful hope, filled with gratitude and eager expectation, I extend to Your Holiness and to all present, and to the Church of Constantinople, my warm and fraternal best wishes on the Feast of your holy Patron.