· Vatican City ·

Patriarch Bartholomew’s Message to the Holy Father

Looking forward to commemorating 1,700 years since the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea

 Looking forward to commemorating 1,700 years since the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea  ING-027
05 July 2024

The following is the English text of the message Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sent to Pope Francis on 29 June for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.

Your Holiness, beloved brother in Christ,

Amidst the turbulence and travails of our time, God has granted us once again the opportunity to extend our fraternal congratulatory wishes to Your Holiness on this bright and luminous festival of the Chief Apostles Peter and Paul, the Thronal Feast of the Church of Rome, through our Patriarchal Delegation consisting of His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon, His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago and the Very Reverend Deacon Œcumenius Amanatidis, Deputy Secretary of the Holy and Sacred Synod and Secretary of this year’s venerable representation. Each year on this day we feel the strengthening of the blessed bond of charity between us, which spurs and inspires us on the path towards the fullness of unity.

In our hymns for this great feast, we exclaim that “though separated in body,” Peter and Paul “were united in the Spirit” (Vespers of the Feast, Stichera). Their unity of mind and heart by the grace of the Holy Spirit is the great exemplar and model of unity for us all. It is ultimately their perfect unity in Christ that made of this God-chosen pair “the glorious adornment of Rome, and the delight of the whole world” (Ibid.). Our own pursuit of unity takes its inspiration from theirs, and our goal must be to share together fully “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) through the re-establishment of Eucharistic communion.

We have rejoiced at Your Holiness’ efforts to strengthen and deepen the theological and practical understanding of synodality in the life of the Church. We pray fervently that the second and concluding Synod on Synodality, to be held later this year in Rome, will yield abundant fruit, and help to draw us ever closer to one another. Synodality is a difficult path, and there are many who would reject it simply for that reason. Yet it is, as Your Holiness has said, “a constitutive element of the Church,” and as the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church held in Crete in 2016 declared, for the Orthodox, “the Church in herself is a Council (Synodos), established by Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit” (Encyclical 1.3). We stand with Your Holiness in Your desire for “an entirely synodal Church” (Address on the 50th Anniversary of the Institution of the Synod of Bishops).

We know that the achievement of Christian unity is both an ineffable gift of grace and an ongoing task. We are heartened by the continuing work of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between our Churches, whose document on “Synodality and Primacy in the Second Millennium” issued at Alexandria in 2023 is still being received and studied by the faithful with great interest. The recent meeting of the Dialogue’s Coordinating Committee, graciously hosted by the Archdiocese of Bari, has successfully initiated the process of drafting two documents dealing with the historical and theological issues related to the Filioque and Infallibility, respectively. This marks a crucial step in the Dialogue, where we can freely and openly approach each other on issues that have long divided us, only now without resorting to groundless and destructive polemics, but seeking in common, with humility and love, the way of healing and truth. Here again we look to the Chief Apostles, those “unbreakable foundations of the divine dogmas” (Matins of the Feast, Praises), for inspiration and guidance, asking for their constant aid that “we all attain unto the unity of the faith ... unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).

Giving thanks for Your Holiness’ visionary emphasis on synodality, we likewise give thanks for Your witness as an instrument of dialogue, peace, and reconciliation throughout the world. Especially in this time of war and pain, particularly in the Ukraine and the Middle East, Your Holiness has shone as a tireless advocate for the cessation of conflict. We join You in these efforts, and we pray with You to our Almighty Lord that he would “guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79). The savagery and inhumanity of our world is too much for us to bear alone. We find our solution, our redemption, as St Peter tells us, “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19). Our hymns address Paul at one point with these words: “Rome received your blood, and with it she makes her boast” (Matins of the Feast, Hypakoe). We boast with Rome in the blood of the martyrs, and above all these two great martyrs and Apostles, knowing that their death for Christ bears witness to and foreshadows the end of all death and all bloodshed through his wondrous and awe-inspiring economy of salvation. Part of that boast, however, is the ardent preaching of peace here and now throughout the world, of which Your Holiness is such a precious and inspiring example.

Your Holiness, dearest Brother Francis, though absent from You “in presence, not in heart” (1 Thessalonians 2:17), we celebrate together with You on this day the Thronal Feast of the Church of Rome. We take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to achieving, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, the restoration of communion between us. We pray that Our Lord grant You perfect health and strength, inspiring Your every step in the exercise of Your ministry, and we look forward with eagerness and spiritual joy to our joint commemoration in 2025 of the 1,700th anniversary of the First Ecumenical Council held at Nicaea. Conveying to Your Holiness, the venerable Hierarchs and the Christ-loving faithful of Your Church, our warmest greetings, we embrace You fraternally and remain with much honour and love in our Lord Jesus Christ, “the chief cornerstone” of the household of God (cf. Ephesians 2:19-20).

At the Ecumenical Patriarchate,
on the twenty-ninth of June, 2024

Your Holiness’beloved Brother in Christ,


of Constantinople-New Rome and
Ecumenical Patriarch