The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I received the St Nicholas Ecumenical Prize in the Basilica of St Nicholas, Bari (Italy).
The prize is awarded by the Apulian Theological Faculty (Facoltà Teologica Pugliese) to eminent Catholic and Orthodox individuals who promote Christian unity.
In his address, the patriarch said that religions have an important
role "in creating, establishing and consolidating the principle of
communion for mutual collaboration and understanding, pushing away the
fundamentalisms that are found in all societies and religions". The goal
in doing this is to create a new relationship between peoples.
In a telegram, Pope Francis called the award a "significant
acknowledgment" and a "sign of gratitude" for the services rendered by
Bartholomew "to promote an ever greater communion among all believers in
In the message, addressed to the Archbishop of Bari-Bitonto,
Francesco Cacucci, the Pope joins "spiritually dear brother Bartholomew
in the veneration of the Holy Bishop of Myra Nicholas, whose relics have
been preserved in Bari for almost a thousand years, entrusting to the
intercession of this Pastor so loved in the East and the West the
‘common prayer’ for the desired goal of full Christian unity."
In accepting the award, Bartholomew said that "we welcome it as a
prophetic sign of unity of all the Holy Churches of God, whose
theological journey between our Churches and the love, respect and
collaboration are one of the fundamental traits."
In his speech, the patriarch went on to highlight the "relational" aspect of the "communal experience" with Christ.
This "means participating together in the divine nature through the
grace given to us by God in all aspects of Christian life: blessings,
trials and tribulations, consolation, support, solidarity, fraternity.
“It means sharing faith, sharing spirituality, praying for each
other; it means concretely realising this communion of our lives and put
it into practice; it means experiencing communion in dialogue, peace