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Local leaders ask faithful to pray for unity at pope, patriarch meeting

Local leaders of the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches are asking their followers to pray for a positive outcome at an upcoming meeting between the heads of their respective churches.

Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew will meet in Jerusalem Sunday, in the same spot their predecessors held a momentous meeting 50 years ago, Terrence Donilon, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston, said in a statement.

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In a rare joint letter, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley and Metropolitan Methodios wrote, “We ask our clergy and laity to continue to pray for the unity of the church and the witness of the Gospel in our world.”

In 1964 Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras met in Jerusalem and started a period of reconciliation between the two churches. Since then, popes and patriarchs have met regularly, according to Donilon.

The meeting was the first of the leaders of Eastern and Western Christianity in 500 years. It began a new era of partnership, said Donilon.

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Ultimately, the two religious leaders would like to regain full unity, similar to what reigned in the first thousand years of Christianity’s existence, said Donilon.

Catholics and Greek Orthodox Christians have “committed themselves to the path of restoring full communion — no matter how long or short it may be,” Donilon said.

“The flourishing relationship between clergy and laity of the Archdiocese of Boston and the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston has contributed to the process of reunion,” O’Malley and Methodios wrote in their letter. “As clergy and laity, we have prayed together, undertaken pilgrimages to Rome and Constantinople and have addressed critical issues facing our society. The brotherhood which has grown here is a treasured gift from above.”

In the letter, both O’Malley and Methodios said they hoped Sunday’s meeting would help move the churches closer together.

“We pray that this meeting in the sacred place of our Lord’s Death and Resurrection will contribute to the restoration of full communion in faith and sacrament between our churches, and the salvation of the world,” reads the letter.

In September, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston will co-sponsor a conference to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic encounter, said Donilon.

Jacqueline Tempera can be reached at jacqueline.tempera@globe.com. Follow her on twitter @jacktemp
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