It was my great honor this year to lead the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to the Liturgy of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul celebrated at St. Peter's Basilica.
For several years I had served on the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Six months after I left the Synod I got a phone call... to go to the Vatican.
I can't say enough about Pope Francis, his humility, dignity, and the way he welcomed me and the rest of the delegation. In a separate audience with him in his office, I came to know a man that was very interested in the unity of our Churches.
He welcomed us and the whole delegation and expressed his brotherly love and admiration for Patriarch Bartholomew. I read the patriarchal letter, followed by the traditional exchange of gifts. Among the issues we discussed was the dialogue here in the United States, and Archbishop (now Cardinal) Tobin and his fine leadership as co-chair of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation.
Pope Francis was aware of the work of the commission and the statements we have made over the past 50 years.
During our time at the Vatican we were welcome to stay at the Domus Santa Marta. In a rare event, he had lunch with our delegation on two occasions. Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity was present at both lunches, and after one of the lunches we met with him and undersecretary Father Andrea Palmieri.
At the Liturgy, during which the pallia were conferred upon new archbishops, I was given a seat of honor. The pope went out of his way to come to where I was standing where we exchanged greetings and the sign of peace. And then, during the mass, I accompanied the Pope down into the Confessio where the relics of St. Peter are treasured. We had a chance to offer a silent prayer together.
I considered it a great blessing from God to be able to venerate the relics and to be with Pope Francis who made a great impression. I said that Christianity cannot afford division, Christianity has to be united and to express its voice in a united way. And he agreed.
Every time I'm at a Catholic Mass, I pray that God lead us to the day we share that common cup, share the witness to the world in which we live. It's a scandal that we remain divided and I am grieved I can't participate. I feel the same when Cardinal O'Malley comes to our cathedral in Boston. Patriarch Athenagoras' theology was that we have to get to the point where we can share the common cup... He felt the pain of the laity who ask, "Why?" Patriarch Bartholomew continues that deep commitment to restoring unity.
METROPOLITAN METHODIOS IS METROPOLITAN OF THE GREEK ORTHODOX METROPOLIS OF BOSTON. HE ALSO SERVES AS THE ORTHODOX CO-CHAIRMAN OF THE NORTH AMERICAN ORTHODOX-CATHOLIC THEOLOGICAL CONSULTATION.