“I am really very happy to be here in the town of Loppiano. I came for the honoris causa Doctorate awarding ceremony. And at the same time, it is a wonderful coincidence: the 50th year from its founding by Chiara Lubich, whom we remember with veneration. And I, as a friend of the Focolare Movement share the joy of this anniversary. Of course I cannot but feel happy and moved to have received the very first honoris causa Docotrate which Sophia has awarded. I am happy to be the first to receive it!
But my greater joy and serenity, apart from the doctorate, is for the message Pope Francis, my most loved brother sent me. The Pope wanted to honour me once again. Such a highly esteemed person wished to express on this occasion, his determination to work even more for unity between our two sister churches.
On my part as the Ecumenical Patriarch, I am so pleased to ensure His Holiness and all of you here today, of the same determination of our Church of Constantinople in bringing ahead the ecumenical dialogue in general, but particularly between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. Since we are sister Churches we hold so many things in common. We are closer than with the other churches and Christian denominations and thus must go forward. This was the message the Pope gave us when he came to Constantinople last year for our patron saint celebrations. This is the common desire we expressed in Jerusalem in May 2014 when we saw each other in the Holy Land to celebrate and underline the 50th anniversary of the historical encounter between our predecessors. Already at the start of his Pontificate, when I had the joy of attending his instatement and during a half-hour private meeting, we told one another that we had to work and pray intensely for our churches, to recompose unity of the body of Christ that is the Church.
This evening I strongly feel his determination, renewed through his message and I really feel so happy! I shall return to Istanbul stronger, and more certain that I have a brother in Rome who wants to work with us and pray for an acceleration of unity between our Churches.”
We are nearing the 50th anniversary of the first encounter between Patriarch Athenagoras and Chiara Lubich in Istanbul. It was on 13 June 1967…
“One of the ideals of the Focolare Movement is unity of the Chruch. Chiara and her partners have worked hard. She visited Athenagoras in Constantinople 23 times. Then she met Dimitrius and then me. In 2008, I visited Chiara in the Gemelli hospital, a few days before her death. I am sure that this evening Chiara is here with us, and undoubtedly she is with us, with her spiritual presence and her prayers. She rejoices with us and prays for unity of our Churches. In a month, I will welcome the Bishop Friends of the Movement in Constantinople. We shall have a get-together at Halki in the school of theology and shall have the chance to remember Chiara all together and pray for the repose of her soul and share our experiences and our determination to work for unity of the Churches. We, as the church of Constantinople, are happy, and ready to welcome them and share our experiences and exchange the kiss of peace between the East and West.”