Pope Francis said he hopes his visit to Romania will strengthen the bonds of faith that unite Orthodox and Catholics in the country. Source: CNS.
The ties between the two churches date back to the apostles Peter and Andrew, who were “blood brothers and shed their blood for the Lord”, like the seven bishop-martyrs of the Eastern-rite Romanian Catholic Church, who died during a fierce anti-religious campaign waged under the communist regime in Romania.
“What they have suffered for, even to the point of offering their lives, is too precious a legacy to be forgotten,” the Pope said in a video message to the people of Romania ahead of the trip. “And it is a common inheritance, which calls us not to distance ourselves from the brother or sister who shares it.”
Francis will head to Romania today until June 2, where he will beatify the martyred bishops.
Almost 82 per cent of the country’s 20 million inhabitants say they belong to the Orthodox Church while over 4 per cent identify as Catholic, belonging either to the Eastern rite Romanian Catholic Church or the Latin rite.
The Pontiff said he would visit the country “as a pilgrim and as a brother” and that he looked “forward to meeting the patriarch and the Permanent Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church, as well as the pastors and Catholic faithful.”
“I come among you to walk together,” he said. “We walk together when we learn to keep our roots and our family, when we take care of the future of our children and the brother or sister next to us, when we go beyond fears and suspicions, when we let go of the barriers that separate us from others.”
The dates of the trip, Pope Francis’ fifth in 2019, coincide with the 20th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s visit to the country.