Pope Francis stressed this to the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Pope Matthias I, when he received him in audience in the Vatican this morning.
The Patriarch has been in Rome since Friday and departs today. His visit has included visiting the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the tomb of the Apostle Peter, and celebrating Mass with Rome’s large Ethiopian community in the chapel of the Urbanian College.
The Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Ethiopia has some 35 million faithful. Its relations with the Catholic Church are cordial and increasingly close, especially after the first visit of the then-Patriarch Abuna Paulos to Pope John Paul II in 1993.
In his address, the Pope pointed out that the Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Ethiopia and Roman Catholic Church “have almost everything in common,” for we share one faith, one Baptism, and one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“We are brothers and sisters in Christ,” Francis said, adding, “As has often been observed, what unites us is greater than what divides us.”
He also reflected on how shared sufferings have enabled Christians, otherwise divided in so many ways, to grow closer to one another.
Seed of unity
“Just as in the early Church the shedding of the blood of martyrs became the seed of new Christians, so today the blood of the many martyrs of all the Churches has become the seed of Christian unity,” he said.
“The ecumenism of the martyrs is a summons to us, here and now, to advance on the path to ever greater unity,” he said, recalling how their Church has been one of martyrs.
“We cannot fail, yet again,” Francis declared, “to implore those who govern the world’s political and economic life to promote a peaceful coexistence based on reciprocal respect and reconciliation, mutual forgiveness and solidarity.”
Pope Francis praised Ethiopia’s great efforts to improve the living conditions of its people and to build an ever more just society, including by valuing women and their contributions.
The Holy Father concluded, praying that the Holy Spirit “continue to enlighten us and guide our steps towards harmony and peace.”