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Pope in Georgia: to Patriarch Ilia II, “dear brother”, I come as “a pilgrim and a friend”

“As a pilgrim and a friend, I have come to this blessed land as the Jubilee Year of Mercy for Catholics approaches its conclusion”. Pope Francis addressed these words to His Holiness and Beatitude Ilia II, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, during the meeting they had in the Audience Hall with the delegations and some representatives of the academic and cultural world, following their private meeting in the apartment of the Patriarch. At the beginning of his second address in Tbilisi, Pope Francis recalled the “first historic visit of a Georgian Patriarch to the Vatican”, by which the Catholicos “opened a new chapter in relations between the Orthodox Church of Georgia and the Catholic Church”, exchanging with the Bishop of Rome “a kiss of peace and a pledge to pray for one other”. “In this way, there has been a strengthening of the meaningful ties that have existed between our communities since the first centuries of Christianity”, the Pope continued, calling their mutual relations “characterized by cordiality and respect”. He then went on to recall John Paul II’s visit to Georgia on the threshold of the Jubilee of 2000, and the current meeting – with Patriarch Ilia II – “faced with a world thirsting for mercy, unity and peace”. A meeting that “asks us to ardently renew our commitment to the bonds which exist between us, of which our kiss of peace and our fraternal embrace are already an eloquent sign”, Pope Francis said, referring to their “apostolic fraternity”. Just as Peter and Andrew, who “were indeed brothers”, and were called by Jesus to “leave their nets and to become, together, fishers of men”. “Dear Brother, let us allow the Lord Jesus to look upon us anew, let us once again experience the attraction of his call to leave everything that prevents us from proclaiming together his presence”.

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