Turkey: Pope visits Ecumenical Patriarch

 Yesterday afternoon, Benedict XVI flew from Izmir to Istanbul. From there, he travelled by car to the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople, centre of the worldwide Orthodox Church and residence of the ecumenical patriarch, His Holiness Bartholomew I. The ecumenical patriarch is "primus inter pares" (first among equals) with respect to the other patriarchs of the Orthodox Church. The primacy of Constantinople serves to represent canonically the unity of Orthodoxy and to coordinate its activities. Apart from Istanbul itself, the patriarch's ecclesiastical jurisdiction includes four Turkish dioceses, as well as Mount Athos, Crete, Patmos and the Dodecanese Islands and, as a result of migrations, dioceses in Central and Western Europe, the Americas, Pakistan and Japan. Orthodox faithful in other parts of the world not subject to the direct jurisdiction of one of the other Orthodox patriarchs also depend upon the ecumenical patriarch. For many centuries, the headquarters of the patriarchate was the cathedral of Santa Sophia. Following the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, it was transferred to other areas of the city. Since 1601, it has been based in the Fanar neighbourhood. The patriarchal church of St George, built in 1720, stands next to the patriarchate. The building has no cupola because, according to rules established by the Ottomans after their conquest of Constantinople, domes were reserved for mosques and other buildings associated with the Islamic faith. Among the relics kept in the church, are parts of St Gregory Nazianzus and St John Chrysostom, donated by John Paul II to the Patriarch Bartholomew I in November 2004. At 7.30pm, the Holy Father and His Holiness Bartholomew I participated in a liturgical act of prayer in the church of St. George. Following an address by the ecumenical patriarch, Benedict XVI said: "It gives me great joy to be among you, my brothers in Christ, in this cathedral church, as we pray together to the Lord and call to mind the momentous events that have sustained our commitment to work for the full unity of Catholics and Orthodox. I wish above all to recall the courageous decision to remove the memory of the anathemas of 1054." After highlighting how the "new relations between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople have developed" upon a foundation of mutual love, Pope Benedict indicated how "signs of this love have been evident in numerous declarations of shared commitment and many meaningful gestures." "I also rejoice," he continued, "to be in this land so closely connected to the Christian faith, where many Churches flourished in ancient times. I think of Saint Peter's exhortations to the early Christian communities, ... and the rich harvest of martyrs, theologians, pastors, monastics, and holy men and women which those Churches brought forth over the centuries." The saints and Doctors of the Church, Gregory Nazianzus and John Chrysostom, whose relics rest partly in the Vatican Basilica and partly "in this very Cathedral," said the Pope, are "truly worthy intercessors for us before the Lord. "In this part of the Eastern world," he added, "were also held the seven Ecumenical Councils which Orthodox and Catholics alike acknowledge as authoritative for the faith and discipline of the Church. They are enduring milestones and guides along our path towards full unity." The Pope concluded his remarks by expressing "once more my joy to be with you. May this meeting strengthen our mutual affection and renew our common commitment to persevere on the journey leading to reconciliation and the peace of the Churches." After the ceremony, Benedict XVI went to "Casa Roncalli," where he spent the night. "Casa Roncalli" was the residence and headquarters of Msgr. Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII, who was apostolic delegate to Turkey from 1935 to 1944. Source: VIS

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