“Grace to you and peace from God” (Rom 1:7). I greet you with these words of
the great Apostle Paul, the very words he addressed to the faithful of Rome
while sojourning in Greece. Our meeting today renews that grace and peace. As
I prayed before the great shrines of the Church of Rome, the tombs of the
Apostles and martyrs, I felt compelled to come here as a pilgrim, with great
respect and humility, in order to renew that apostolic communion and to foster
fraternal charity. I thank Your Beatitude for your kind words, which I reciprocate
with affection. Through you, I also greet the clergy, monastic communities and
all the Orthodox faithful of Greece.
Five years ago, we met at Lesvos, amid one of the great tragedies of our time:
the plight of so many of our migrant brothers and sisters, who cannot be
regarded with indifference, seen only as a burdensome problem to be managed
or, worse yet, passed on to someone else. Now we meet again, to share the joy
of fraternity and to view the Mediterranean that surrounds us not simply as a
site of difficulties and divisions, but also as a sea that brings peoples together. A
short time ago, I mentioned the age-old olive trees that our lands have in
common. Reflecting on those trees that unite us, I think of the roots we share.
Underground, hidden, frequently overlooked, those roots are nonetheless there
and they sustain everything. What are our common roots that have endured
over the centuries? They are the apostolic roots. Saint Paul speaks of them when
he stresses the importance of being “built upon the foundation of the apostles”
(Eph 2:20). Those roots, growing from the seed of the Gospel, began to bear
abundant fruit precisely in Hellenic culture: I think of the early Fathers of the
Church and the first great ecumenical councils.