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Pope Francis To Oriental Orthodox Priests: ‘Unity Does Not Come About By Standing Still’


By Courtney Mares


Pope Francis met Friday with a delegation of priests and monks from Oriental Orthodox Churches at the Vatican.

“Unity is not simply an end in itself, but is closely tied to the fruitfulness of the Christian proclamation: unity is for mission. Jesus prayed for his disciples that they ‘may all be one … so that the world may believe,’” the pope told the Oriental Orthodox delegation on June 3.

“At Pentecost, the Church was born as a missionary Church. Today too, the world is waiting, however unconsciously, to hear the Gospel message of charity, freedom and peace. It is a message that we are called to bear witness to with one another, not against one another or apart from one another.”

The Oriental Orthodox delegation visiting the Vatican was made up of 18 priests and monks from Egypt, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, India, Ethiopia, and Eritrea.

Within the group, clergy from the Coptic Orthodox Church, Armenian Apostolic Church, Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, and many others were represented.


In his speech to the delegation, Pope Francis spoke about the Solemnity of Pentecost and the gift of Christian unity.

He said that unity is a gift “of the working of the Holy Spirit, to whom we need to open our hearts in trust, so that he can guide us along the path to full communion.”

The pope also noted that “unity is not uniformity,” but rather a “harmony in the diversity of the charisms bestowed by the Spirit.”

The Oriental Orthodox delegation was invited to the Vatican by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the council, welcomed the group to Rome on May 31.

While in Rome, the delegation is scheduled to visit the Vatican Secretariat of State, the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Catholic Education, Pontifical Armenian College, and the Pontifical Maronite College.

“Unity does not come about by standing still, but by moving forward with the new energy that the Spirit, from the day of Pentecost, impresses on the disciples,” Pope Francis said.

Quoting St. Irenaeus of Lyon, whom the pope recently declared the “Doctor of Unity,” the pope said that the Church is “tõn adelphõn synodía, a caravan of brothers.”

Pope Francis also thanked the priests who have witnessed to the Gospel amid Christian persecution and violence in their countries.

“Dear brothers, may the cross of Christ be the compass that directs us on our journey towards full unity. For on that cross Christ, our peace, reconciled us and gathered us into one people,” he said.


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