Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is now 90 years old. As Pope, he spoke eloquent and powerful words of faith, of self-sacrifice, and of holiness at a time when many did not want to hear those words.
One of the great themes of Pope Emeritus Benedict’s pontificate was the theme of Christian unity, especially unity between Catholics and Orthodox — an end to the greatest schism in Christianity, dating from 1054 A.D. In his first homily as Pope, on April 20, 2005, he said his “primary” task would be to work tirelessly to unify all followers of Christ.
He repeated that pledge May 29, 2005, on his first journey as Pope, to Italy’s Adriatic seaport of Bari—a pilgrimage site for many Russian Orthodox because it was the see of their beloved St. Nicholas — and called on ordinary Catholics to also take up the ecumenical cause. We are among those “ordinary Catholics” who take up that cause.
Now, Pope Francis continues with this desire to overcome 1,000 years of division. As he told the Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawdros II in 2016, his hope is “to intensify our common efforts to persevere in the search for visible unity in diversity, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit…”
“Along this path, we are sustained by the powerful intercession and example of the martyrs. May we continue to advance together on our journey toward the same Eucharistic table, and grow in love and reconciliation,” he said.