Orthodox delegation not at pope’s Mass
Pope Francis’ efforts to improve relations with the Georgian Orthodox Church suffered a public setback Saturday after the patriarchate decided not to send an official delegation to his Mass and repeated that Orthodox faithful cannot participate in Catholic services.
In the run-up to Francis’ Caucasus visit, the Vatican spokesman had said the Orthodox patriarchate would send a delegation to the Mass in a Tbilisi sports stadium “in a sign of the rapport between the two churches” — suggesting that the chill that had clouded the 1999 visit of St. John Paul II to Georgia had warmed slightly.
But Orthodox patriarchate spokeswoman Nato Asatiani said Saturday that the delegation had stayed away “by mutual agreement.”
The patriarchate updated a previous statement on its website saying that “as long as there are dogmatic differences between our churches, Orthodox believers will not participate in their prayers.”