Marc Murphy, a celebrated chef and son of some good friends of mine, is currently on the Polish-Ukraine border and helping to prepare meals for 2,500 plus refugees a day. He was interviewed by CNN’s Anderson Cooper. His Dad sent me this link:

At 5 pm today, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin will celebrate a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for peace in Ukraine. Members of the diplomatic corps will be in attendance.

Yesterday, Pope Francis announced the March 25th Consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in ceremonies in Rome and Fatima in both Russian and Ukrainian on his Twitter account @pontifex.

I was just about to post this column when I saw the news about the phone call between Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill. I have been following Patriarch Kirill in recent weeks as he has basically supported Russia in its war on Ukraine, creating no few difficulties within the Orthodox community (see below for story).


Today’s general audience took place in two different moments, the first in St. Peter’s Basilica when Pope Francis addressed students from La Zolla Vocational school in Milan, and then in the over-flowing Paul VI Hall where the Pope addressed about 7,500 faithful.

In addressing the students in St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis prayed for the thousands of Ukrainian children who, he said, “are living under the bombs, have nothing to eat, are forced to flee their homes, leaving everything behind. …Lord Jesus, look at these children, bless them and protect them. They are the victims of the arrogance of the adults.”

He then asked the students of the La Zolla Institute to turn their thoughts “to the many boys, girls, who are facing war and who are suffering. … You have a future ahead, the security of growing up in a peaceful society, and instead these little ones, these very little ones, have to flee from the bombs, with all that cold out there.”


Having arrived in the Paul VI Hall from St. Peter’s Basilica, the Holy Father began his weekly meeting with the faithful by noting, “in our continuing catechesis on the meaning and value of old age, viewed in the light of God’s word, we now consider the vital role of the elderly in handing on to new generations life’s true and sustaining values.”

“In the very first pages of the Bible,” Francis explained, “God entrusts to the elderly Noah the task of restoring the goodness of his creation, which had become corrupted by the spread of violence and wickedness. Jesus himself speaks of the ‘days of Noah’ in warning us of the need for conversion in view of the imminent coming of God’s Kingdom, which brings mankind definitive salvation and spiritual renewal.”

The Pope underscored that, “In every age, as in the days of Noah, we can be tempted to accept sin and corruption as normal, to avert our eyes from the unjust suffering of the poor and the destruction of our natural environment. In our own day, these are the fruits of a materialistic, self-centred and spiritually empty culture of waste. The elderly, like Noah, can warn us of this danger and remind us of our God-given call to be guardians and stewards of his creation.

“May Noah’s example and prayers inspire our elderly to appreciate this, their special charism, and help to build a new ‘ark’ of welcome, care and hope, for the future of our world and the dawn of the new creation.”

The Holy Father then closed the general audience with a special prayer composed by Archbishop Domenico Battaglia of Naples, making a few additions of his own:

Before reciting the prayer, he invited Christians to “ask God for forgiveness and to grant peace” amid the pain of the war in Ukraine. (Vatican photo)

Here is an unofficial translation of the Pope’s prayer:

Forgive us for war, O Lord.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners!
Lord Jesus, born in the shadows of bombs falling on Kyiv, have mercy on us!
Lord Jesus, who died in a mother’s arms in a bunker in Kharkiv, have mercy on us!
Lord Jesus, a 20-year-old sent to the frontlines, have mercy on us!
Lord Jesus, who still beholds armed hands in the shadow of your Cross, have mercy on us!

Forgive us, O Lord.

Forgive us, if we are not satisfied with the nails with which we crucified Your hands, as we continue to slate our thirst with the blood of those mauled by weapons.
Forgive us, if these hands which You created to tend have been transformed into instruments of death.
Forgive us, O Lord, if we continue to kill our brother;

Forgive us, if we continue like Cain to pick up the stones of our fields to kill Abel.
Forgive us, if we continue to justify our cruelty with our labors, if we legitimize the brutality of our actions with our pain.
Forgive us for war, O Lord. Forgive us for war, O Lord.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, we implore You! Hold fast the hand of Cain!
Illumine our consciences;
May our will not be done;
Abandon us not to our own actions!

Stop us, O Lord, stop us!
And when you have held back the hand of Cain, care also for him. He is our brother.
O Lord, put a halt to the violence!
Stop us, O Lord!


Acistampa, an EWTN/CNA news agency, reported on the call. This is my translation of the Italian:

Today Pope Francis and the Patriarch of Moscow and all of Russia Kirill had a conversation via video conference. The news was released by the Moscow Patriarchate through an official note.  Joining the Pope and Kirill, were Metropolitan Hilarion** and Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

According to the note from the Russian Orthodox Church, Kirill “greeted the Pope cordially, expressing satisfaction about the possibility of organizing a conversation. A detailed discussion of the Ukrainian situation took place. Particular attention was paid to the humanitarian aspects of the current crisis and to the actions of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church to overcome its consequences. The parties underlined the exceptional importance of the ongoing negotiation process, expressing their hope for a just peace to be reached as soon as possible. Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill also discussed some current issues of bilateral cooperation.”

The Pope and Kirill met in Cuba in February 2016, the first ever meeting between a Pope and Patriarch of Moscow.

(JFL: **Chairman of the Department of External Affairs)




In 2006 I covered the November visit to Turkey by Benedict XVI and learned a great deal about Catholic-Orthodox relations, as well as those between the Catholic Church and Islam. I studied at length both aspects of the papal trip – the visit to the Orthodox patriarchate and the Church’s relations with Islam given that Pope Benedict made history with a much applauded visit to Istanbul’s Blue Mosque.

It was an extraordinary trip and I have indelible memories and myriad photos. I mention this because of Pope Francis’ message today to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I for the November 30 feast of St. Andrew, patron of the Patriarchate. There is an annual exchange of delegations for this feast, with Rome sending a delegation to Istanbul, and for the June 29th feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, patrons of Rome, when the Patriarchate sends a delegation to the Vatican. For Pope Francis’ letter to Bartholomew, click here: Pope to Bartholomew: Working together makes our communion visible – Vatican News

Today I present provide a capsule summary of what I learned and wrote about at the time concerning the history of Orthodox-Catholic relations.

In the meantime, the Vatican today released Pope Francis’ prayer intention for December, inviting everyone to pray for catechists, “summoned to announce the Word of God,” that they might “be its witnesses, with courage and creativity, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, with joy and much peace.” Click here for video and message with English subtitles: Pope’s December prayer intention: For Catechists – Vatican News


Today is the feast of St. Andrew, patron of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Holy See and the Patriarchate exchange regular annual visits and send delegations for the feast days of their respective patrons. The Vatican celebrates the June 29 feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles and the Orthodox patriarchate marks the November 30 feast of St. Andrew. Roman Catholics believe St. Peter was given the mandate by Christ to lead the church and was thus the first Pope. The Orthodox believe that mandate was given to his brother, Andrew.

Both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis have travelled to Turkey to celebrate this feast together with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. I was in Turkey to cover Benedict’s trip in November 2006 but did not accompany Francis in 2014.

On both occasions a Divine Liturgy was celebrated in St. George Church, located in the Phanar neighborhood (also spelled Fanar) of Istanbul. The name is the Turkish transliteration of the original Greek word meaning a lighting lantern, a streetlight, a lightpost with a lantern. The name is also linked to the classical phanárion and the more modern fanári meaning “lantern.”

The Phanar neighborhood became home to many Greeks as well as to the Patriarchate of Constantinople after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, 400 years after the Great Schism, the divide between Constantinople and Rome, between the Eastern and Western Churches.

Today, a complex known as Phanar houses the offices of the patriarchate and the residence of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. Just as the term Vatican – Vatican City State – is used the describe the heart of the Catholic Church, the Holy See, Phanar is often shorthand for the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

In his talk on November 30, 2006, Pope Benedict said, “the divisions that exist among Christians are a scandal to the world and an obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel.”

One of the principal reasons for the thousand-year old split between Catholics and Orthodox is the Petrine ministry – Petrine referring to St. Peter – and the Petrine ministry being the office of the Pope.

Benedict made reference to that as well in his talk. He said that Christ gave Peter and Andrew the task of being “fishers of men,” but entrusted that task to each in different ways. Peter, said the Pope, was called “the rock upon which the Church was to be built and entrusted him with the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.” Peter travelled from Jerusalem to Antioch to Rome “so that in that city he might exercise a universal responsibility.”

“The issue of the universal service of Peter and his Successors,” said Benedict XVI, “has unfortunately given rise to our differences of opinion, which we hope to overcome.”

Some historical background on the East-West split:

What has come to be known as the East-West Schism occurred in 1054 when Patriarch Michael Cerularius of Constantinople, leader of the Eastern Christian Churches, and Pope Leo IX, leader of the Western Church, excommunicated each other. The mutual excommunications were lifted only in 1965 when both Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, following their history-making meeting in Jerusalem in 1964, held ceremonies that revoked the excommunication decrees.

Differences between the two Churches on matters of doctrine, theology, and language had been growing for years, with the most prominent issue being papal primacy. There were also issued over claims of jurisdiction. However, the two Churches have been seeking unity ever since.

The Petrine ministry – the primacy of the Pope – was specifically mentioned vis-a-vis the Orthodox Church in the document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith entitled “Responses to Some Questions on Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church,” dated June 29, 2007.

Pope Francis quoted this document – specifically the fourth question – in his talk during the Divine Liturgy in 2014. (This 1,200-word document, excluding footnotes, with five questions and five answers is eminently readable: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20070629_responsa-quaestiones_en.html


Pope Francis tweeted today: When we are feeling sad, when it feels like everything is going wrong, we should remember: “God loves me. God never abandons me”.



(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin on Monday described the tone of his two-hour meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow,  as “very constructive”.

The cardinal is on a four-day visit to Russia during which he is scheduled to meet the Russian Patriarch Kirill and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday before holding talks with President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Wednesday.

The website of the Moscow Patriarchate showed a picture of Parolin clasping hands with Hilarion and holding talks in a room decorated with Orthodox icons. It said the two men discussed “key topics of bilateral relations… in the context of the current international situation.”

Answering journalists’ questions after the Monday meeting, the Vatican Secretary of State said that a good part of the conversation touched on the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine as well as on the Holy See’s concern for the situation in Venezuela.

The Russian news agency Tass highlighted the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church and the Holy See reportedly share the same position regarding “the need for a peaceful solution for the middle-eastern region and in particular for Syria” and that a return to normality in that country will be possible only after the total expulsion of IS militants from the occupied territories.”

Cardinal Parolin reportedly noted that Christians are beginning to return to the areas that have been taken back from the so-called Islamic State, but said that notwithstanding some positive developments, the general situation remains very difficult, especially from a humanitarian point of view.


(Vatican Radio)  Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov for talks on Tuesday, during which they discussed issues of international concern and agreed to visa-free diplomatic travel. (photo news.va)

During the press conference following their talks, the Holy See and the Russian Federation signed an Agreement waiving visa requirements for holders of diplomatic passports.

Cardinal Parolin and Foreign Minister Lavrov called this a sign of the two countries’ desire to continue to work together on bilateral relations and issues of international concern.

Cardinal Parolin said he raised questions regarding the Catholic Church’s life and activity in Russia with his counterpart.

He said difficulties remaining between the Vatican and Russia include “working residency permits for non-Russian personnel and the restitution of several churches necessary for the pastoral care of Catholics in the country.”

Christians in Middle East

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov evoked the need for solutions for Christians living in the Middle East.

“We need to find similar solutions that would provide proper balance between different ethnic and religious groups in Yemen, Libya, and Iraq, where state building processes are underway,” Mr. Lavrov said.

Cardinal Parolin said he recognized the difference in approach between Russia and the Holy See on these issues. But he said the two share a “strong concern for the situation of Christians in several countries of the Middle East and the African continent”.

“The Holy See nourishes constant concern that religious liberty be preserved in all States and in all political situations,” Cardinal Parolin said.

Dialogue in Venezuela

Responding to a question about the situation in Venezuela, Cardinal Parolin said he believes Russia can help to overcome this very difficult moment.”

He said Russia can promote the Vatican’s efforts to create dialogue between Venezuela’s government and the opposition.

“This is the only solution the Holy See sees for an exit to this situation.”

Cardinal Secretary of State Parolin meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Wednesday.