Pope Praises Ecumenical Patriarch

Pope Francis sent a special letter to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople during the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle on November 30. The pope reflected on how the journey of reconciliation between Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox began with an embrace between Pope Paul vi and ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in 1964.

“It is noteworthy that today we remember not so much the words and statements of those two prophetic pastors, but above all their warm embrace,” the pope wrote in his letter.

Ancient history: Roman historians like Hippolytus of Rome (a.d. 170–235) and Origen of Alexandria (a.d. 185–253) noted that the Apostle Peter preached in Rome while his brother Andrew preached in Scythia. After Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire to Constantinople in a.d. 330, a tradition arose that Peter was the bishop of Rome and Andrew was the bishop of Constantinople.

There is no evidence that either apostle put down roots in Rome or Constantinople, but the tradition was convenient for those trying to bolster the religious authority of the two capitals of the Roman Empire.

Historic meeting: The 1964 meeting between Paul vi and Athenagoras was historic because it was the first time a bishop of Rome and patriarch of Constantinople had met since the Catholic and Orthodox churches split in 1054. The late Herbert W. Armstrong, editor in chief of the Plain Truth, remarked upon the prophetic significance of a follow-up meeting between these leaders in his Oct. 29, 1967, co-worker letter:

… Patriarch Athenagoras traveled to Rome. He and Pope Paul vi exchanged the “kiss of peace” and made their vows to unite in St. Peter’s Basilica. In all the 900 years of hostility and division, no leader of the Eastern Catholic Church had ever before made a pilgrimage to the headquarters of the Roman Church. … Patriarch Athenagoras recognized that Rome is “the seat which is first by honor and order in the organism of Christian churches around the world.” Do you catch the significance of that? It signifies that the patriarch is ready to capitulate and to recognize the supremacy of the pope!

Learn more: Read “Returning to the Fold,” by Stephen Flurry.