Pope to Ecumenical Patriarch: Christians must have a presence in the Middle East

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During his visit to Turkey, Pope Francis celebrated the Feast Day of St. Andrew along with Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew. The celebration was held in the Church of St. George in the city of Istanbul. 

 In a call for unity, the Patriarch spoke about their previous meeting in the Holy Land. He also mentioned how their predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Athenagoras, decided to move forward as  brothers instead of adversaries.  The Pope then added that Catholics don't wish to impose anything in their journey towards ecumenical unity.   

'I want to assure each and every one of you, that to achieve the full unity we yearn for, the Catholic Church does not intend to impose any requirement.'  

After the ceremony, the Pope and the Patriarch gave a blessing. Pope Francis in Latin and Bartholomew in Greek.  They also signed a joint declaration, just like they did back in May when they met in Jerusalem. 

 The declaration includes the common concern both Churches have about the situation in Syria and Iraq. In light of the violence and bloodshed that's ravaged parts of these countries, they also called for the conflicts to end, through dialogue and negotiation.  The instability in Ukraine was also mentioned as well as the need to engage in dialogue with Islam.   

The Pope and the Patriarch met once again as the Pope boarded a plane back to Rome. Bartholomew was there, at the airport, to say farewell. 

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