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Pope: Patriarch bears ‘exemplary witness’ to care of creation

Pope Francis with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Istanbul last year (AP)

Pope Francis conveyed his gratitude to Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople for his commitment to peace and reconciliation between the Catholic and Orthodox churches as well as his commitment to the care of creation.

“I wish to express my deep appreciation for your holiness’s fervent commitment to the critical issue of care for creation, for which your sensitivity and awareness is an exemplary witness for Catholics,” the Pope said in a written message delivered on Monday to the patriarch in Istanbul.

The Pope’s message was given to Patriarch Bartholomew by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, who led a Vatican delegation to Istanbul for the feast of St Andrew the Apostle, the patriarchate’s patron saint.

In his message, the Pope recalled his visit to Turkey last year in which he celebrated the liturgical feast with the Orthodox patriarch, saying that it was “a moment of grace” that renewed “the bonds of friendship with you and with the church over which you preside.”

Although there are differences that have not yet been resolved, Pope Francis noted that there is no obstacle “which cannot be overcome through prayer, the purification of hearts, dialogue and the affirmation of truth.”

The Pope also praised Patriarch Bartholomew’s dedication to the protection and care of the environment, calling him an example for Catholics. The World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, celebrated by both churches on September 1, he said, “is a hopeful sign for Catholics and Orthodox.”

Pope Francis assured his prayers for the Conference of Parties, or COP21, taking place in Paris from November 30-December 11.

Patriarch Bartholomew was attending the conference which hopes to achieve a legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Concluding his message, the Pope asked the patriarch’s prayers for the upcoming Year of Mercy so that it “may bear the spiritual fruits for which we yearn.”