The ceremony brought together around 20 religious leaders, including the Anglican, Pentecostal, Evangelical and Lutheran movements – Copyright AFP Mahmud Turkia
Leaders of various Christian denominations joined an unprecedented ecumenical prayer at the Vatican on Saturday in the presence of Pope Francis, ahead of the opening of a major Synod.
Named “Together”, the prayer vigil brought together about 20 religious leaders, including the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, and Anglican leader Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Also represented were leaders from the Pentecostal, Evangelical and Lutheran movements and others, joined by thousands of Christian pilgrims gathered at the Vatican’s St Peter’s Square.
“With great affection, I greet the heads of churches, the leaders and delegations of the different Christian traditions and all of you, especially the young people…,” said the pope in his address.
The vigil came in the lead-up to Wednesday’s opening of the 16th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, where some 400 clergy and lay people — including women — will reflect on the future of the Catholic Church.
“It is a very important moment when the pope invites leaders from other Churches… because we want the unity of Christians with a view to peace for humanity,” Brother Alois Loser, a priest from Taize, France told AFP.
It was the Taize religious community that organised the event.
Since becoming pope in 2013, 86-year-old Francis has repeatedly reached out to other Christian denominations and to other religions.
Notably, in 2016 he held a historic meeting with Russian Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, nearly 1,000 years after the schism between the Eastern Church and Rome.
The relationship between the two men has soured since the war in Ukraine, however, due to Kirill’s strong support for Moscow.
Earlier Saturday, Francis presided over a consistory in which he created 21 new cardinals, most of whom will be eligible one day to elect his successor.
Pope joins other Christian leaders in prayer ahead of Synod
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