Message from Pope Francis to Patriarch Bartholomew (Nov 20th, 2018)

Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

This is a message from Pope Francis to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, published Nov 30th, 2018. Some thoughts underneath the selection I’ve cited.


“….I convey my sentiments of deep affection, together with the assurance of my prayers for Your Holiness, beloved brother in Christ, and for the Church entrusted by our Lord to your pastoral care…Our Churches have safeguarded the Apostolic tradition with great care, along with the teaching of the first Ecumenical Councils and the Church Fathers, despite the differences that developed in local traditions and in theological formulations, which need to be more deeply understood and clarified. At the same time both Churches, with a sense of responsibility towards the world, have sensed that urgent call, which involves each of us who have been baptized, to proclaim the Gospel to all men and women. For this reason, we can work together today in the search for peace among peoples, for the abolition of all forms of slavery, for the respect and dignity of every human being and for the care of creation. With God’s help, through encounter and dialogue on our journey together over the last fifty years, we already experience being in communion, even though it is not yet full and complete. The search for the re-establishment of full communion is above all a response to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, who on the eve of his Passion prayed that his disciples “may all be one” (Jn 17:21)….”


From this letter, it is clear to me that the Pope recognizes:
(1) There is still a division between the Chalcedonian-Eastern churches and the churches in union with the Roman See, but nevertheless hopes the division to be healed through theological research and clarifications.
(2) Nevertheless, he recognizes the Patriarch as “Brother” in Christ
(3) The Chalcedonian-East has “safeguarded the Apostolic tradition with great care” despite “the differences that developed” in theology.
(4) That the Patriarch of Constantinople lawfully reigns with a jurisdiction “entrusted” to him by Jesus Christ Himself. We aren’t given any more detail (it would be rash to expect that in such a latter). However, if he means that Bartholomew was entrusted with the pastoral care of the souls in the Church of Constantinople, then the Pope would admit a true, valid, and proper jurisdiction of a Bishop, a Patriarch no less, who is not in communion with the Pope. That appears to contradict the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 883. I wouldn’t know any other way to take it, but I claim no right to say one way or the other.
(5) Despite being deprived of full communion and full agreement in theology, both Churches can strive to help “the search for peace among peoples, for the abolition of all forms of slavery, for the respect and dignity of every human being and for the care of creation”.

(6) All the “baptized” have the duty to proclaim the gospel to all men and woman


My only curiosity here would be to ask how we as Catholics can recognize a true jurisdiction given by Christ to Orthodox clergy over their faithful? Am I missing something?

Fore more of Pope Francis’s comments on matters related to jurisdiction in Eastern Orthodoxy, see here. Again, more questions than answers.


14 thoughts on “Message from Pope Francis to Patriarch Bartholomew (Nov 20th, 2018)

  1. I think either way, this could not qualify as any infallible statement, as it’s given to someone who is not even under his jurisdiction. I’m quite wary of Francis overall, and except in audacious circumstances (E.g. the catechism change) I don’t take his private actions and words too seriously (or rather, I do take them seriously, and find them to be quite uncatholic.)

  2. As far as the use of the word “brother” goes, however, the pre-Vati2 Popes referrer to Protestants as “separates brethren.” Augustine could refer to Donatists as brethren.

      • Totally different subject, your website has been a great help to me on a personal level. You’ve done a lot for me in that it made me rethink some of the questionable historical incidents which anti-Catholics will cite as disproofs of Catholicism and has shown me they really //don’t// need to be understood as undermining the Catholic position, that there’s truly more to the story. Thanks for helping me search for truth.

  3. CCC 883 refers to the authority of the entire college of bishops, not to the authority of individual bishops.

    I think historically the EO Churches are true particular Churches CCC 886. Therefore, in my theory, EO Patriarchs can have jurisdiction over their own particular Churches. What they lack, in accordance with CCC 886, is a true share “in the concern for all Churches,” especially in an Ecumenical Council. Even in schism, I think a bishop remains the steward of his particular Church (CCC 893), even if they are failing to exercise that authority in communion with the Pope (CCC 896).

    I’m not sure how we could have veneration of Orthodox saints, even as Doctors of the Church, if they did not retain jurisdiction somehow. But then again, very little makes sense to me anymore.

      • I have never heard of the idea that a Bishop can enjoy jurisdiction outside of communion with the Pope unless there is some special faculty that has been allowed by the Pope. Do you have any information on that? True particular churches exist for the Nestorians and the Eutychions (modern day copts), but that doesn’t mean they enjoy jurisdiction.

  4. As I said, it is just a theory of mine. Not that many avail themselves of it, but we admit EO and OO faithful to Holy Communion. Presumably they are going to confession to their own ministers at some point in order to be properly disposed? I’ve personally known two EO who receive in a Roman Catholic parish, but I never heard of them going to confession there.

    • “we admit EO and OO faithful to Holy Communion” – Yes, this is true. I really have never heard of a defense for this practice , to be honest. If you find something, let me know. Thank you.

      • There is a bit on it here:

        “The popes were thus well aware that liturgical services in common with non-Catholics were in themselves not proper, and that special permission was required for them. Within certain limits, however, they were prepared to give this permission if it would help toward the salvation of souls. Clement VI (1342-1352), for example, gave a very general permission to Armenian priests who had returned to the Catholic Church: these he permitted to administer the sacraments among the schismatics, not in approval of their schism, – this is stated – but to lead them back to obedience to the true Church.”

        I doubt the same reasoning was employed by the modern permissions for giving Holy Communion to non-Catholics. But it is at least a historical precedent.

      • Alex Cooper,

        This is an excellent resource. Thank you very much. I have been collecting sources related to this for some time now, including dictations from the Holy Office going back to the 1700s where the Eastern Christians separated from Rome could be absolved in certain lands (though not receiving communion) without making a full profession in the Catholic Church, in cases of extremis.

        With this new resource, I feel like I can write an article on the thorny issue of inter communion with the separated Eastern Christians.

    • That kind of practice is possible only if you stress the Real Presence more than the fact that receiving of Communion is an outward sign that you’re in Communion with him from whom you receive it.
      So the reasoning goes: “Sacrament is valid, Jesus is there, and thus nothing else matters.”.

  5. I want to echo John Church’s comment on December 1, 2018 at 5:18 am. Your blog has been invaluable to me over the past year.

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