Pope Honors Monsignor Fortino's Ecumenical Work

Catholic-Orthodox Commission Recalls Priestly Commitment

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 29, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is expressing appreciation for the ecumenical commitment of Monsignor Eleuterio Fortino, 72, who died due to illness on Sept. 22.

The Pope sent a telegram through his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, honoring the life of the subsecretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, who focused particularly on relations with the Orthodox Churches.

The telegram was read by Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, during the celebration of the Trisagion, according to the Eastern tradition, on Saturday afternoon in the church of St. Athanasius of the Greeks in Rome. 

Benedict XVI affirmed that Monsignor Fortino carried out a «generous commitment with intelligence and passion at the service of unity» throughout his life.

The service was presided over by the rector of the Pontifical Greek College, Father Manuel Nin, who in his homily recalled the passionate and «smiling» service of Monsignor Fortino to the Church, the liturgy and Christian unity. 

After the homily, Cardinal Walter Kasper, former president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, expressed «profound gratitude for everything he did. I say it not only in my name, but in that of all the men and women collaborators, of all those who esteemed him over these long years.»

The cardinal continued: «In Monsignor Fortino we have known profound humanity; he was a faithful friend. 

«All of us admired how, despite his exhausting illness, he always kept his good humor and continued with the work he carried in his heart. We have lost a friend.»

True pastor 

According to Monsignor Juan Fernando Usma Gómez, who also works in the office of the pontifical council, the celebration «was a testimony of imposing and moving affection that made us remember how Monsignor Fortino was not only a soul of ecumenism and a man of culture, but also a priest who was truly a pastor of his Italian/Albanian community.»

Bishop Farrell recalled Monsignor Fortino’s last meeting with Benedict XVI on June 28, in an audience with the delegation sent by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople on the occasion of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. The ecumenical patriarch also sent a message of condolence. 

Bishop Farrell highlighted the affection and esteem for Monsignor Fortino as expressed by Orthodox Archbishop Anastasius of Tirana and All Albania. 

The priest was also remembered by participants in the 12th plenary session of the International Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, which took place Sept. 22-27 in Vienna, Austria.

They recalled Monsignor Fortino’s role as co-secretary of the joint commission since its inception, and offered prayers for the repose of his soul.

Born in San Benedetto Ullano in Calabria, southern Italy, in 1938, Eleuterio Francesco Fortino entered as a seminarian in the Pontifical Greek College in 1958. He completed his studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University. 

Ordained a priest in 1963, he took part in the last session of the Second Vatican Council as an assistant to the ecumenical observers. Since then he has collaborated with the Holy See in the dialogue with the Orthodox Churches.

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