(Vatican Radio) An historic first will grace the Mass, March 19, that will inaugurate
the pontificate of Pope Francis . After a separation of nearly 1,000 years, the Ecumenical
Patriarch of Constantinople will attend the inauguration of the Pope of Rome.
from more than 20 Christian churches and ecumenical organizations announced their
attendance. However, the presence of Bartholomew I is of historic significance.
is not clear if a Patriarch of Constantinople -- who is considered “first among equals”
in the Eastern Orthodox Communion -- has ever attended the installation of a Pope
of Rome. The event is certainly unique in the more than 950 years since the break
in relations between Constantinople and Rome in 1054.
Fr. James Puglisi, who
is the Minister-General of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement and director of
an ecumenical centre in Rome, called Centro Pro Unione, says the participation of
Bartholomew I sends a strong signal in favour of ecumenical dialogue.
of all, it’s a recognition of two local churches, the Church of Rome and the Church
of Constantinople, which has ecclesiological significance. And the second reason is
that the Metropolitan of Pergoman, John Zizioulas, who is the co-chair of the Orthodox-Catholic
dialogue, is going to accompany him,” he said.
“So I think the importance of
this is a way of showing, from the Orthodox side, the willingness to go further in
this dialogue and to breach the divisions that have kept us apart for centuries,”
“They see in Pope Francis a person who has accepted a simple lifestyle,
one that conforms to the Gospel,” he continued. “And emphasizing, first and foremost,
that he is bishop of Rome, and I think that was really important. When he appeared,
he spoke to his Church, who now elected him as head. And so, I know the Romans are
very pleased with that, but I think it has ecumenical significance that shows that
he intends to exercise his ministry, first and foremost, as bishop of Rome.”
from the Oriental Orthodox Church, including the Coptic, Syrian and Armenian Orthodox
churches, as well as from the Lutheran, Methodist and Baptist churches are also expected
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who is preparing for
his own inaugural ceremony March 21, has delegated Archbishop John Sentamu of York
to represent the Anglican Communion.
Metropolitan Tikhon of the Orthodox Church
in America will also be in attendance, along with Br. Aloïs Löser of the popular ecumenical
Taizé Community in France.
Listen to the full-length interview with
Fr. James Puglisi, SA, by Laura Ieraci: