On Saturday 4 December, on the first day of his visit to Greece, Pope Francis meet with His Beatitude Hieronymos II in the ‘Throne Room’ of the Orthodox Archbishopric of Greece in Athens. Recalling his first meeting with His Beatitude Hieronymos in Lesvos in 2016, during which they signed a joint declaration with His All Holiness Bartholomew, the Holy Father reflected in his address that he “felt compelled to come here as a pilgrim, with great respect and humility, in order to renew that apostolic communion and to foster fraternal charity”.
Renewing the request for pardon expressed by Saint John Paul II in 2001, Pope Francis affirmed: “History makes its weight felt, and here, today, I feel the need to ask anew for the forgiveness of God and of our brothers and sisters for the mistakes committed by many Catholics. Yet we are comforted by the certainty that our roots are apostolic and that, notwithstanding the twists and turns of time, what God planted continues to grow and bear fruit in the same Spirit. It is a grace to recognize one another’s good fruits and to join in thanking the Lord for this”. Asking “How can we testify before the world to the harmony of the Gospel, if we Christians remain separated?”, the Holy Father invoked “the Spirit of communion to spur us to follow his lead and to help us base communion not on calculations, strategies and expedience, but on the one model to which we must look: the Most Holy Trinity”.
Pope Francis expressed his gratitude to the Orthodox Church of Greece for its active participation in the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue, at the same time expressing the aspiration: “Together may we develop forms of cooperation in charity, may we open our hearts and cooperate in addressing ethical and social issues, in order to serve the men and women of our time and to bring them the consolation of the Gospel”.