By Christopher Wells
“I wish to express to Patriarch Bartholomew my warmest wishes for his anniversary, asking God to grant him health, serenity, spiritual joy, and – may I say – a sense of humour: even more!”
With these words, the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, congratulates the Archbishop of Constantinople, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, on the thirtieth anniversary of his election to the See of St Andrew.
In a video message, the Pope remarks on the “good personal rapport” that has grown between the two spiritual leaders since the Patriarch came to Rome for the inauguration of Pope Francis’ ministry as Successor of Peter nine years ago. Since that time, the Pope says, their relationship has grown “into a fraternal friendship in the many meetings we have had throughout the years, not only Rome, but also in Constantinople, Jerusalem, Assisi, Cairo, Lesbos, and Bari.
Pope Francis notes the “shared awareness of our joint pastoral responsibility towards the urgent challenges that the entire human family must face today,” highlighting especially Patriarch Bartholomew’s commitment to the care of creation, and his witness and teaching during the pandemic.
“Furthermore,” says Pope Francis, “His Holiness Bartholomew has unceasingly pointed to dialogue, in charity, and in truth, as the only possible way for reconciliation between all believers in Christ and for the restoration of their full communion.” He adds, “We certainly wish to continue walking together along this path.”
The Pope concludes his message, in Greek and Latin, with the traditional wishes that the Lord might grant to Patriarch Bartholomew “many years” of life and ministry: χρόνια πολλά! Ad multos annos!