Pope Francis has encouraged a Vatican-run organisation aimed at fostering cultural collaboration between the Catholic Orthodox Churches.
The Catholic Committee for Cultural Collaboration with the Orthodox and Oriental Churches, which is the responsibility of the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, supports clergy and laypeople from the Orthodox Church to complete their studies in theology in the academic institutions of the Catholic Church.
Addressing members of the committee at the Vatican Jan. 11, Pope Francis said the “path of reconciliation and renewed brotherhood between Churches” needs the “experiences of friendship and sharing, born of mutual awareness between the exponents of the different Churches.”
He said this was particularly relevant to “young people starting out in holy ministry.”
Such collaboration, he said, was “admirably marked by the first historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and the ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras”. The Jerusalem meeting took place 50 years ago this month.
The Holy Father thanked the benefactors and members of the Committee’s managing council which is holding its annual meeting in Rome. He then addressed special greetings to students.
“Your stay among us is important for dialogue between Churches, today and above all, tomorrow,” he said. “I give thanks to God for offering me this beautiful opportunity to meet you and to tell you that the Bishop of Rome wishes you all the very best. I hope that every one of you may have a joyful experience of the Church and of the city of Rome, spiritually and culturally enriching, and that you are enabled to feel not like guests, but rather as brothers among brothers. I am sure, on the other hand, that your presence is enriching for the study communities you attend”.
Paul VI, during Vatican Council II, instituted the Catholic Committee for Cultural Collaboration.
Shortly after the Pope’s historic encounter with the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, the current committee was created upon the initiative of the then-secretary for Promoting Christian Unity. It has also been helped thanks to the generosity of benefactors, allowing it to continue to offer study bursaries to clergy and laypeople from the Orthodox Churches and the Oriental Orthodox Churches who wish to complete their studies in theology in the academic institutions of the Catholic Church.
The Committee also supports other projects in the field of ecumenical collaboration.