50 years since the meeting of Pope Paul VI with Patriarch Athenagoras
It certainly was a historic visit, made 50 years ago by Pope Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Montini), to the Holy Land from January 4 to January 6, 1964, which Pope Francis wishes to commemorate with a similar visit to the Holy Land from May 24 to May 26 this year.
The event that profoundly marked the pilgrimage was the embrace between the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Consantinopole, Athenagoras, the evening of January 5, 1964. Paul VI and Athenagoras embraced several times, they spoke at length as two “newly found brothers” (expression repeated by both during the interview) and that laid the groundwork for a resumption of dialogue between the two large Christian communities.
It is not difficult to imagine that similar expressions of affection and esteem, and desire for “ecumenical unity” will take place next May between Pope Francis and the present Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew 1 who was the first one to invite Pope Francis to the Holy Land to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic embrace between Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI. Bartholomew 1 extended this invitation to Pope Francis right after his election.
A hall at the Mariapolis Center was dedicated to Patriarch Athenagoras to recall this prominent figure and the profound relationship he had with Chiara Lubich.