29 November 2014, The Tablet

Francis asks Patriarch to ‘bless me and the Church of Rome’

by Liz Dodd in Istanbul

Pope Francis bowed to receive a kiss and the blessing of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew during a joint service of thanksgiving this evening in Istanbul.

"I ask a favour: bless me and the Church of Rome," Francis said, before turning to Patriarch Bartholomew and bowing.

The request was spontaneous, Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said afterwards, but not unprecedented.

During the service the Patriarch prayed that the Churches be restored to “full union”.

After welcoming Pope Francis, whom he had accompanied to a Mass at Istanbul’s Catholic cathedral earlier in the afternoon, to the Patriarchal Cathedral of St George at Phanar, Bartholomew thanked him for his “fraternal” visit.

“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,” he said. 

He also noted the tenth anniversary of the return of the relics of St Gregory the Theologian and St John Chrysostom from Rome to the Orthodox Church.

The relics, of the two former Patriarchs of Constantinople, were returned by Pope John Paul II in 2004 at the request of Patriarch Bartholomew.

“We express to Your Holiness our fervent thanks for this fraternal gesture on behalf of your Church to our Patriarchate,” he added.

Fr Lombardi said that the “richness and the solemnity” of the liturgy, which was a sung service of prayer held by candlelight, was very touching.

“This event, this ecumenical moment of brotherhood together, is surely one of the most significant of this trip,” Fr Lombardi concluded.

Above: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople kisses Pope Francis as they embrace during an ecumenical prayer service in the patriarchal Church of St George in Istanbul (CNS/Paul Haring)

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