In a visit to Turkey, Pope Francis visited the leader of the Orthodox Church, Patriarch Bartholomew, and the two leaders made a joint plea for world peace.
As the leader of the Catholic Church, it is one of Pope Francis’ many responsibilities to reach out to other facets of Christianity and other faiths – and that is exactly what he has been doing recently. The Orthodox Church split from the Roman Catholic Church in 1054 over religious differences, and over the centuries there has been a lot of animosity between the two groups. Now however, Pope Francis clearly wants to bring an end to the differences between them and enter into a peaceful relationship. In a recent trip to Turkey, he has met the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. They have prayed together, and discussed the current problems in the Middle East.
Although this reconciliation was the main purpose to Pope Francis’ visit, the two leaders also had another motive: to stand together for world peace. They gave a joint declaration this weekend on their official stance on Islamic State: “Inspired by common values and strengthened by genuine fraternal sentiments, Muslims and Christians are called to work together for the sake of justice, peace and respect for the dignity and rights of every person.” They have implored Muslims to stand with them for peace and acceptance around the world.
Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew have a combined 1.5 billion followers, and it is hoped that with their influence they will be able to bring some relief to the Christians and Shia Muslims who are being forced away from their homes by the Islamic State and scattered across the Middle East. Pope Francis also prayed in a mosque in Turkey, demonstrating his willingness to meet with Muslim people for peace. After their meeting, Pope Francis asked Patriarch Bartholomew for his blessing and lowered his head, which is a first in living memory that a Pope has showed deference to the Patriarch.