Pope Francis wrapped up his three-day visit to Turkey on Nov. 30 with a liturgy alongside the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians and a meeting with young refugees who have fled Syria, Iraq and other conflict zones, the Hurriyet Daily News reports.
Hypnotic chants echoed in the Orthodox Church of St. George as Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I greeted Pope Francis for the liturgy marking an important feast day for the Orthodox Church.
“The one thing that the Catholic Church desires, and that I seek as Bishop of Rome… is communion with the Orthodox Churches,” the pope said after attending the celebration of a divine liturgy.
Alluding to the violence in the Middle East that has seen Christians persecuted by jihadists, Francis said the need for reconciliation had now become even more pressing.
“The cry of the victims of conflict urges us to move with haste along the path of reconciliation and communion between Catholics and Orthodox.
“Indeed, how can we credibly proclaim the message of peace which comes from Christ, if there continues to be rivalry and disagreement between us?” he said.
Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos also attended the liturgy.
The two men were to issue a joint declaration afterward.
The Catholic and Orthodox churches split in 1054 over differences on the primacy of the papacy, and there was a time when patriarchs had to kiss the feet of the pope. At the end of a joint prayer service Saturday evening, Francis bowed to Bartholomew and asked for his blessing “for me and the Church of Rome,” a remarkable display of papal deference to an Orthodox patriarch that underscored Francis’ hope to end the schism.
Later on Nov. 30, Francis was to meet with a few dozen young refugees being cared for by the Salesian religious order. The Vatican had downplayed the meeting, perhaps because of organizational problems, or to not to distract from Francis’ ecumenical activities, which were the main reason for the visit.
But just before the trip began, the Vatican revealed that he would indeed deliver a speech to the youths.
The absence of a dedicated visit had raised eyebrows given that refugees are a primary concern for Francis, and he met with Syrian and Iraqi refugees during his Jordan visit in May.
Turkey is currently hosting some 1.6 million Syrian refugees.