In an interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa Dec. 15, Pope Francis called ecumenical dialogue a priority of his pontificate, noting that Christians of all traditions face the same persecution today.
“For me ecumenism is a priority. Today there is an ecumenism of blood. In some countries they kill Christians for wearing a cross or having a Bible and before they kill them they do not ask them whether they are Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic or Orthodox. Their blood is mixed. To those who kill we are Christians,” the Pope said.
“We are united in blood, even though we have not yet managed to take necessary steps towards unity between us and perhaps the time has not yet come. Unity is a gift that we need to ask for.”
Since the very beginning when he leaned out the balcony of the central loggia of Saint Peter’s basilica on March 13, Pope Francis called himself “the bishop of Rome” who “presides over the other Churches in charity.”
In his interview, Pope Francis expressed the affection and good will that he feels for his ‘brother bishops’ of the East. “Over the course of these first nine months, I have received visits from many Orthodox brothers: Bartholomew, Hilarion, the theologian Zizioulas, the Copt Tawadros. The latter is a mystic, he would enter the chapel, remove his shoes and go and pray. I felt like their brother. They have the apostolic succession; I received them as brother bishops,” he explained.
“It is painful that we are not yet able to celebrate the Eucharist together, but there is friendship. I believe that the way forward is this: friendship, common work and prayer for unity.”