On March 13, 2013, the world met Pope Benedict XVI's successor, the new Supreme Pontiff, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who took the name, Francis. The Holy Father appeared on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, greeting the crowd gathered in the square, and then began his pontifical itinerary. On the tenth anniversary of his election, we remember some of his most important meetings with the Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs of the East.
Bartholomew at his inauguration Mass
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew attended Francis' inauguration ceremony on March 19 of the same year. That day was historic for ecumenical relations, as it was the first time the Patriarch of Constantinople participated in the inauguration ceremony of the Pope of Rome since the Great Schism between East and West in 1054. After that, the Holy Father and Bartholomew met several times, including in 2016 when Francis visited the Greek island of Lesbos to draw attention to the refugee crisis fleeing from the Middle East to Europe, and the day he met Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II and other patriarchs in an ecumenical prayer in Cairo in 2017.
Historic meeting with Kirill
Francis met Patriarch Kirill of Moscow on February 12, 2016, at the Jose Marti airport in Cuba. It was the first time the head of the Catholic Church had met the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Russia since the Great Schism. After the meeting, Francis and Kirill issued a joint declaration confirming the determination of both parties to overcome differences and seek unity and an end to the persecution of Christians.
Prayer in Bari for persecuted Christians
At the tomb of St. Nicholas in Bari, Pope Francis invited the leaders of the world's churches to pray for peace on July 7, 2018. Ten Orthodox patriarchs and metropolitans and seven Catholics participated and prayed together.
Mass in the Chaldean rite
For the head of the Latin Church to meet the Patriarch of the Chaldean Church is not a new issue due to the long communion between the two communities. However, for the Pope of the Catholic Church to celebrate the Divine Liturgy with the Chaldean rite is something the Christian community has never witnessed before. This is what happened on March 6, 2021, at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Baghdad, when Francis presided over the Mass, with Patriarch Raphael Sako, as part of the first trip of a pontiff to Mesopotamia.
Lebanese Patriarchs in the Vatican
As part of Pope Francis' constant concern for the good of Lebanon, the leaders of the churches of the Land of the Cedars met the Holy Father to pray for the country on July 1, 2021, in Vatican City.
On this occasion, the Patriarchs of the Maronite Churches, the Greek Orthodox, Melkite Catholics, Syrian Catholics, Syrian Orthodox, Cilicia Orthodox Armenians, the President of the Supreme Council of Evangelical Churches in Lebanon and Syria, and the Chaldean and Latin Metropolitans of Beirut, have traveled to Rome.
Elias Turk is the Vatican editor of ACIMENA, a news service in Arabic from EWTN News. He has a master's degree in dogmatic theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University-Rome, and two university certificates in Islamo-Christian studies from Université Saint Joseph-Beirut. He is the author of Lamp of Eternal Lights: The Biography of Saint Charbel Makhlouf, and several other books in Italian and Arabic.