Sunday, October 02, 2016

Pope in Georgia: Differences between Christians must be remedied

Christian hope " gives us the incentive to believe that differences can be healed and obstacles removed; it invites us never to miss opportunities for encounter and dialogue, and to protect and together improve what already exists".  

Pope Francis’ last speech in Georgia was purely ecumenical. 

Tomorrow morning, in fact, Francis will take off from Tbilisi to Azerbaijan for the second and final stage of this visit in the Caucasus.
Late this afternoon Pope Francis visited Svetitskhoveli Patriarchal Cathedral, the spiritual center of the Georgian Orthodox Church, in which according to tradition is preserved the robe of Jesus. Francis was welcomed by Patriarch Ilia II, who renewed his words of affection and esteem, but who did not go to Mass celebrated by the Pope this morning. 

Similarly, other members of a church considered intransigent which would not even participate in the pan-Orthodox council, but is present in the Orthodox-Catholic Joint Commission, did not attend. In the important meeting held last month in Chieti, dedicated to the delicate issue of the exercise of primacy and collegiality in the Church before the great schism of the East, however, the Georgian delegation was the only one to express reservations about some points and have wanted that its dissent be  expressed in the document, when it will be published.

This is the backdrop to Francis’s words that invite people to historicize differences and discord, and to have "Christian hope". " At the end of my pilgrimage to Georgia, I thank God for the opportunity to spend prayerful time in this holy temple.  I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude for the welcome I have received, for your moving witness of faith, for the goodness of the Georgian people.  Your Holiness, the words of the psalmist come to mind: “Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!  It is like the precious oil upon the head” (Ps 133:1-2).  Dear Brother, the Lord has granted us the joy of meeting one another and of exchanging a holy kiss; may he pour out upon us the fragrant balm of concord and bestow his abundant blessings upon our path, and on the path of this beloved people ".

" The Christian message – as this holy place recalls – has for centuries been the pillar of Georgian identity: it has given stability through so many upheavals, even when, sadly not infrequently, the fate of the nation was bitterly left to fend for itself.   But the Lord never abandoned the beloved land of Georgia, because he is “faithful in all his words and loving in all his deeds; he upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down” (Ps 145:13-14).

                The Lord’s tender and compassionate closeness is especially represented here in the sign of the sacred tunic.  The mystery of the tunic, “without seam, woven from top to bottom” (Jn 19:23), has attracted the attention of Christians from the beginning.  One of the early Church Fathers, Saint Cyprian of Carthage, declared that in the undivided tunic of Jesus there appears that “bond of concord inseparably cohering”, that “unity which comes from above, that is, from heaven and from the Father, which could not be definitively rent” (De Catholicae Ecclesiae Unitate, 7: SCh 1 [2006], 193).  The holy tunic, a mystery of unity, exhorts us to feel deep pain over the historical divisions which have arisen among Christians: these are the true and real lacerations that wound the Lord’s flesh.  At the same time, however, “that unity which comes from above”, the love of Christ which has brought us together, giving us not only his garment but his very body, urge us to not give up but rather to offer ourselves as he did (cf. Rom 12:1): they urge us to sincere charity and to mutual understanding, to bind up wounds, with a spirit of pure Christian fraternity. 

Naturally, all this requires patience nurtured through trusting others and through humility, without fear and discouragement, but rather rejoicing in the certainty which Christian hope allows us to enjoy.  This gives us the incentive to believe that differences can be healed and obstacles removed; it invites us never to miss opportunities for encounter and dialogue, and to protect and together improve what already exists.  I am thinking, for example, of the current dialogue of the International Joint Commission and other propitious occasions for exchange”.

" I sincerely assure you of my prayers, so that the Lord, who makes all things new (cf. Rev 21:5), through the intercession of the Holy Brothers and Apostles Peter and Andrew, of the Martyrs and of all the Saints, may deepen the love between all believers in Christ and the enlightened pursuit of everything which brings us together, reconciles us and unites us.  May fraternity and cooperation increase at every level!  And may prayer and love make us ever more receptive to the Lord’s ardent desire, so that everyone who believes in Him, through the preaching of the Apostles, will “be one” (cf. Jn 17:20-21)".

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