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Pope Francis and Bartholomew I - © Vatican Media

Bari: ‘An Authentically Ecumenical Breath,’ Says Italian City’s Archbishop

Ahead of Ecumenical Day for the Middle East

It’s time to “pass from a vision — although laudable — linked to our Church and to the Catholic world, to “an authentically ecumenical breath,” said Archbishop of Bari-Bitonto Francesco Cacucci, to Vatican News on July 2, 2018.

In a few days, Pope Francis will go to this region for the Ecumenical Day of Reflection and Prayer on the Situation of the Middle East, which he convoked at Bari, in Puglia, southern Italy, for Saturday, July 7, 2018. During the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square on July 1, the Pope mentioned this event and asked “all to accompany this pilgrimage of peace and unity with prayer.”

Speaking of the need for an “authentically ecumenical breath,” Archbishop Cacucci explained: “I refer to the possibility of combining an ecumenical vision of the Christian Churches and the particular attention to the Middle East, to pray for peace, but also to be close to our Christian brothers and sisters who live in suffering,” he said.

“The other Communities will be present and will live this event of July 7 with a great participation. We have constant meetings with brothers of other Confessions,” he explained. This prayer for peace, “isn’t an event which only concerns the local Church of Bari, but the whole region,” he added.

“The ecumenical path isn’t an improvised path, “ stressed the Archbishop of Bari-Bitonto. “Immediately after Vatican Council II, Archbishop Nicodemus — the Archbishop at the time — returning form the Council, opened the crypt of Saint Nicholas to the Orthodox with a chapel and an iconostasis consecrated to him. It was the first act of its kind at the world level,” he said.

So “the voyage is continued through a permanent dialogue with the other Christian Confessions, but especially with the Eastern world, which is constantly here at Saint Nicholas to venerate the relics.” The Archbishop stressed the large “presence of the Russian world” at Bari, but also of “all the Eastern world” as well as of the “Anglican Church” and of the Evangelical Churches.”

The city of Bari lives this ecumenical breath in daily life, he said. “It would suffice to come on Sunday mornings here, to Old Bari, to admire the colorful clothes worn by the faithful of the different Christian Communities. I think of the Ethiopians, the Eritreans, of — among others — the Georgians who celebrate their liturgy in the churches of Old Bari, in our Catholic churches, which I wish to put at the disposition and offer to these brothers. When Patriarch Bartholomew I came to Bari in December 2016, we offered him a church dedicated to the Sacred Heart in the center of the city,” he added.

Personally, Archbishop Cacucci regards as “a gift” the event organized at Bari. “I was ordained Bishop 31 years ago during a session of the Mixed Catholic-Orthodox Commission held at Bari with Cardinal Willebrands and the Metropolitan of Melbourne, Stylianos. The principal leaders of the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches were present. This event marked my life, so I’ve always lived in the light of Saint Nicholas, who is the Saint of unity and, I stress, not only of the unity between Catholics and Orthodox, but also with the Evangelical Churches. The choice of Bari was a decision of the Pope, which I received with gratitude and enthusiasm,” he concluded.

 

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