His Holiness Patriarch Bartholemew of Constantinople, the Universal Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, will attend the pope’s inaugural mass for the first time since the Great Schism between the Western and Eastern churches, Vatican Radio said.
The presence of Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who is the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, at Pope Francis’ official Inaugural Mass at St. Peter’s Square on March 19, is widely regarded as a sign of further improvement in relations between the two churches.
Bartholomew I earlier welcomed the election of Pope Francis with a warm message of congratulations.
“I want to express the hope and the certainty that the Holy Father will contribute to the peace of an already battered humanity, the poor and the suffering,” he said.
The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, who shared friendly relationships with John Paul II and Benedict XVI, said that newly-elected Pope Francis “will give a new impetus to the two Churches’ journey towards unity.”
Fr Olexander Kenez