Pope Francis, who began his visit to Athens, asked for forgiveness for “mistakes made by many Catholics.” He did this during a meeting with the Orthodox Archbishop of all Greece, Jerome II.
Twenty years after the historic pilgrimage of St. John Paul II and his apologies for the guilt of Catholics, Francis declared: It is shameful – and I admit it with regard to the Catholic Church – actions and decisions that have little or nothing to do with Jesus and the Gospel, and which are marked by a desire for profit and power, have led to a weakening of communion.
In this way, we allowed the ability to bear fruit to be tainted by divisions. History has its weight and today I feel the need to renew my request for forgiveness here to God and to my brothers for the mistakes made by many Catholics the Pope said.
Referring to the centuries of divisions between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, he emphasized: The poisons of the world have polluted us, the tares of suspicion have increased our distance, and we have ceased to cultivate communion.
Addressing to Jerome II He assured me that he had come as a pilgrim “with great respect and humility to renew apostolic communion and to strengthen brotherly love.”
On the eve of his second trip to the island of Lesbos, a place – a symbol of the migration crisis in Europe – Francis recalled their joint visit in 2016.
We met five years ago in Lesvos, pushed by one of the greatest dramas of our time, the drama of many brothers and sisters of migrants who cannot remain indifferent to their fate and perceive them only as a burden to be managed or, worse, to be entrusted to someone else – he spoke.
Now, as the Pope added, “we come together to experience the joy of brotherhood and to look at the Mediterranean Sea that surrounds us, not only as a place that cares and divides, but also as a sea that unites”.
Francis expressed the conviction that the starting point for building communion must be the recognition of the unique value that shines in every human being.
He asked: How can we bear witness to the harmony of the Gospel to the world if we Christians are still divided? How can we proclaim the love of Christ who gathers nations if we are not united to one another? He called for the development of cooperation in charity, ethical and social issues.
There was an incident in front of the residence of the head of the Orthodox Church, to which the Pope had come. An elderly Orthodox priest began shouting to the Pope that he was a “heretic.” He was taken from the archbishop’s seat by security forces.