On Wednesday, May 23, 2018, His All-Holiness, Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, came to venerate the relics of the Apostles Philip and James at our Basilica of the Twelve Holy Apostles, in Rome.
This reciprocated a visit made on May 9, 2017, by a delegation of Franciscan friar-priests from Rome, to the cathedral of St. Polycarp in Smyrna (Izmir, Turkey). On that occasion, Friar Silvestru BEJAN from the Sacro Convento in Assisi and Friar Agnello STOIA, Pastor of the Basilica of the Twelve Holy Apostles (acting on behalf of the Minister General), delivered two relics of the Apostle Philip as gifts to the Patriarch and to the Most Reverend Lorenzo PIRETTO O.P., Archbishop of Izmir, as a “symbolic return” of the apostle to the places where he preached and was martyred (Hierapolis, today’s Pamukkale).
The prayer service at the Basilica of the Twelve Holy Apostles was intensified by the presence of so many participants, including friars from the various General Houses in Rome. There were also many Orthodox with their faithful, a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate and one from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The Patriarch was greeted by His Eminence, Angelo Cardinal DE DONATIS, Vicar of the Pope for the City of Rome, and Friar Marco TASCA, our Minister General. Speaking on behalf of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, Friar Marco expressed strong appreciation for the Patriarch’s commitment to the defense of Creation. Given that it was the eve of the Dedication of the Basilica in Assisi, he also mentioned Brother Elias of Cortona, who initiated the Custody of the Holy Land. Since 1217, the friars of that Custody have collaborated with the Orthodox, sharing its holy sites and the difficult situation in the Near East.
In his speech, the Patriarch explained the reasons for his visit to Rome and the conversation he would be having with Pope Francis; talking with him about suffering humanity, about the commitment to people in need and about our being together as a true sign of communion and witness of the crucified and risen Christ.
At one very exciting point, Catholics and Orthodox entered the crypt and recited the profession of faith together in front of the relics of the two apostles Phillip and James. At the conclusion of the prayer service, they venerated the Basilica’s icon of the Greek Madonna, the most ancient image of the Immaculate Conception known.
Friar Agnello STOIA, Pastor
phot.: Friar Ryszard WRÓBEL; Friar Iulian EVA