Text of the Joint Declaration of the Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople



We, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, express our profound gratitude to God for the gift of this new encounter enabling us, in the presence of the members of the Holy Synod, the clergy and the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to celebrate together the feast of Saint Andrew, the first–called and brother of the Apostle Peter. Our remembrance of the Apostles, who proclaimed the good news of the Gospel to the world through their preaching and their witness of martyrdom, strengthens in us the aspiration to continue to walk together in order to overcome, in love and in truth, the obstacles that divide us.

On the occasion of our meeting in Jerusalem last May, in which we remembered the historical embrace of our venerable predecessors Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, we signed a joint declaration. Today on the happy occasion of this further fraternal encounter, we wish to re–affirm together our shared intentions and concerns.

We express our sincere and firm resolution, in obedience to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, to intensify our efforts to promote the full unity of all Christians, and above all between Catholics and Orthodox. As well, we intend to support the theological dialogue promoted by the Joint International Commission, instituted exactly thirty–five years ago by the Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios and Pope John Paul II here at the Phanar, and which is currently dealing with the most difficult questions that have marked the history of our division and that require careful and detailed study. To this end, we offer the assurance of our fervent prayer as Pastors of the Church, asking our faithful to join us in praying “that all may be one, that the world may believe” (Jn17:21).

We express our common concern for the current situation in Iraq, Syria and the whole Middle East. We are united in the desire for peace and stability and in the will to promote the resolution of conflicts through dialogue and reconciliation. While recognizing the efforts already being made to offer assistance to the region, at the same time, we call on all those who bear responsibility for the destiny of peoples to deepen their commitment to suffering communities, and to enable them, including the Christian ones, to remain in their native land. We cannot resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians, who have professed the name of Jesus there for two thousand years. Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and have been forced violently from their homes.It even seems that the value of human life has been lost, that the human person no longer matters and may be sacrificed to other interests. And, tragically, all this is met by the indifference of many. As Saint Paul reminds us, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together” (1 Cor 12:26). This is the law of the Christian life, and in this sense we can say that there is also an ecumenism of suffering. Just as the blood of the martyrs was a seed of strength and fertility for the Church, so too the sharing of daily sufferings can become an effective instrument of unity. The terrible situation of Christians and all those who are suffering in the Middle East calls not only for our constant prayer, but also for an appropriate response on the part of the international community.

The grave challenges facing the world in the present situation require the solidarity of all people of good will, and so we also recognize the importance of promoting a constructive dialogue with Islam based on mutual respect and friendship. Inspired by common values and strengthened by genuine fraternal sentiments, Muslims and Christians are called to work together for the sake of justice, peace and respect for the dignity and rights of every person, especially in those regions where they once lived for centuries in peaceful coexistence and now tragically suffer together the horrors of war. Moreover, as Christian leaders, we call on all religious leaders to pursue and to strengthen interreligious dialogue and to make every effort to build a culture of peace and solidarity between persons and between peoples. We also remember all the people who experience the sufferings of war. In particular, we pray for peace in Ukraine, a country of ancient Christian tradition, while we call upon all parties involved to pursue the path of dialogue and of respect for international law in order to bring an end to the conflict and allow all Ukrainians to live in harmony.

Our thoughts turn to all the faithful of our Churches throughout the world, whom we greet, entrusting them to Christ our Saviour, that they may be untiring witnesses to the love of God. We raise our fervent prayer that the Lord may grant the gift of peace in love and unity to the entire human family.

“May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you” (2 Thess 3:16).

From the Phanar, 30 November 2014

Sede Vacante has begun. The See of Rome is Vacant

Therefore, as of now, Thursday, 28 February 2013, at 8 pm CET (UTC+1), Pope Benedict XVI is no longer our Pope, and the See of Rome is vacant.


Let us all pray, first for His Holiness Benedict XVI, Bishop Emeritus of Rome, that God will continue to guide him in his prayerful life as a simple pilgrim, to the end of his journey in this world. We will always remember him as our beloved Pope.

Then, of course, let us pray that God will soon appoint the new shepherd, successor of St. Peter the Apostle, through the Holy Spirit and guidance to the Cardinal-electors who will elect the new Pope in the conclave which will begin likely in about 10 days from now, according to the rules of Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis and the corresponding modifications by the Motu Proprio Normas Nonnullas.

The Ring of the Fisherman or the Fisherman’s Ring (Pope Benedict XVI’s ring as Pope)


What is the Ring of the Fisherman? or also called the Fisherman’s Ring? and why fisherman?

This is because, Peter, the leader of the Apostles, whom our Popes are successors of, including our retiring Pope Benedict XVI, was once a fisherman at Lake Galilee in Israel. Then Jesus, our Lord, came and called him and his brother Andrew, to follow Him, and then He made Peter, a fisher of man, through His Church, which He entrusted to him to lead. This is why, the picture on the Fisherman’s Ring represents Peter as fisherman as seen in the image above. Also engraved is the regnal name of the Pope, Benedictus XVI in Latin.



This ring was used in the past to seal important Papal documents such as letters and most importantly papal bulls. The seal used was wax seal, in which hot wax was poured and the ring is pressed onto the hot wax while it is still hot, and therefore, the image engraved on the ring, will be reflected on the wax seal, signifying the legality of the documents and papal bulls published, with the authority of the Pope, as successor of St. Peter and leader of the Universal Church, one Church of Christ.


This ring, which symbolises the authority of the Pope, given to him at the Installation of the Pope (Papal Installation), is destroyed upon the Pope’s death, and in Pope Benedict XVI’s case, it will be destroyed after the sede vacante starts with a silver hammer in the presence of witnesses, to prevent any misuse of the Ring during the sede vacante to validate documents not released by the Pope.

Live Now : Pope Benedict XVI leaving soon for Castel Gandolfo

Watch live at Vatican Player : http://www.vatican.va/video/

The event will begin on Thursday, 28 February 2013 at 4.45 pm CET (Central European Time or UTC+1), and therefore accordingly here are the times for some areas in the world :

1. PST (Western USA) (UTC-8) :Thursday, 28 February 2013 at 7.25 am

2. EST (Eastern USA) (UTC-5) : Thursday, 28 February 2013 at 10.45 am

3. UTC (GMT) : Thursday, 28 February 2013 at 3.45 pm

4. WIB (Western Indonesian Time) (UTC+7) : Thursday, 28 February 2013 at 10.45 pm

5. SG time (UTC+8) : Thursday, 28 February 2013 at 11.45 pm (also for HK, China, Philippines, and Malaysia)

Pope Benedict XVI’s message at his last General Audience : St. Peter’s Square, Wednesday, 27 February 2013

“Like the Apostle Paul in the Biblical text that we have heard, I feel in my heart that I have to especially thank God who guides and builds up the Church, who plants His Word and thus nourishes the faith in His People. At this moment my heart expands and embraces the whole Church throughout the world and I thank God for the news that, in these years of my Petrine ministry, I have received about the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and for the love that truly circulates in the Body of the Church, making it to live in the love and the hope that opens us to and guides us towards the fullness of life, towards our heavenly homeland.”

“I feel that I am carrying everyone with me in prayer in this God-given moment when I am collecting every meeting, every trip, every pastoral visit. I am gathering everyone and everything in prayer to entrust it to the Lord: so that we may be filled with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding in order to live in a manner worthy of the Lord and His love, bearing fruit in every good work.”

“At this moment I have great confidence because I know, we all know, that the Gospel’s Word of truth is the strength of the Church; it is her life. The Gospel purifies and renews, bearing fruit, wherever the community of believers hears it and welcomes God’s grace in truth and in love. This is my confidence, this is my joy.”

“When, on 19 April almost eight years ago I accepted to take on the Petrine ministry, I had the firm certainty that has always accompanied me: this certainty for the life of the Church from the Word of God. At that moment, as I have already expressed many times, the words that resounded in my heart were: Lord, what do You ask of me? It is a great weight that You are placing on my shoulders but, if You ask it of me, I will cast my nets at your command, confident that You will guide me, even with all my weaknesses. And eight years later I can say that the Lord has guided me. He has been close to me. I have felt His presence every day. It has been a stretch of the Church’s path that has had moments of joy and light, but also difficult moments. I felt like St. Peter and the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of Galilee.”

“The Lord has given us many days of sunshine and light breezes, days when the fishing was plentiful, but also times when the water was rough and the winds against us, just as throughout the whole history of the Church, when the Lord seemed to be sleeping. But I always knew that the Lord is in that boat and I always knew that the boat of the Church is not mine, not ours, but is His. And the Lord will not let it sink. He is the one who steers her, of course also through those He has chosen because that is how He wanted it. This was and is a certainty that nothing can tarnish. And that is why my heart today is filled with gratitude to God, because He never left—the whole Church or me—without His consolation, His light, or His love.”

“We are in the Year of Faith, which I desired precisely in order to strengthen our faith in God in a context that seems to relegate it more and more to the background. I would like to invite everyone to renew their firm trust in the Lord, to entrust ourselves like children to God’s arms, certain that those arms always hold us up and are what allow us to walk forward each day, even when it is a struggle. I would like everyone to feel beloved of that God who gave His Son for us and who has shown us His boundless love. I would like everyone to feel the joy of being Christian. In a beautiful prayer, which can be recited every morning, say: ‘I adore you, my God and I love you with all my heart. Thank you for having created me, for having made me Christian…’ Yes, we are happy for the gift of faith. It is the most precious thing, which no one can take from us! Let us thank the Lord for this every day, with prayer and with a coherent Christian life. God loves us, but awaits us to also love Him!”

“It is not only God who I wish to thank at this time. A pope is not alone in guiding Peter’s barque, even if it is his primary responsibility. I have never felt alone in bearing the joy and the weight of the Petrine ministry. The Lord has placed at my side so many people who, with generosity and love for God and the Church, have helped me and been close to me. First of all, you, dear Brother Cardinals: your wisdom, your advice, and your friendship have been precious to me. My collaborators, starting with my secretary of state who has accompanied me faithfully over the years; the Secretariat of State and the whole of the Roman Curia, as well as all those who, in their various areas, serve the Holy See. There are many faces that are never seen, remaining in obscurity, but precisely in their silence, in their daily dedication in a spirit of faith and humility, they were a sure and reliable support to me.”
“A special thought goes to the Church of Rome, my diocese! I cannot forget my Brothers in the episcopate and in the priesthood, consecrated persons, and the entire People of God. In my pastoral visits, meetings, audiences, and trips I always felt great care and deep affection, but I have also loved each and every one of you, without exception, with that pastoral love that is the heart of every pastor, especially the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Every day I held each of you in prayer, with a father’s heart.”

“I wish to send my greetings and my thanks to all: a pope’s heart extends to the whole world. And I would like to express my gratitude to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, which makes the great family of Nations present here. Here I am also thinking of all those who work for good communication and I thank them for their important service.”

“At this point I would also like to wholeheartedly thank all of the many people around the world who, in recent weeks, have sent me touching tokens of concern, friendship, and prayer. Yes, the Pope is never alone. I feel this again now in such a great way that it touches my heart. The Pope belongs to everyone and many people feel very close to him. It’s true that I receive letters from the world’s notables—from heads of states, from religious leaders, from representatives of the world of culture, etc.”

“But I also receive many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply from their hearts and make me feel their affection, which is born of our being together with Christ Jesus, in the Church. These people do not write to me the way one would write, for example, to a prince or a dignitary that they don’t know. They write to me as brothers and sisters or as sons and daughters, with the sense of a very affectionate family tie. In this you can touch what the Church is—not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian ends, but a living body, a communion of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ who unites us all. Experiencing the Church in this way and being able to almost touch with our hands the strength of His truth and His love is a reason for joy at a time when many are speaking of its decline. See how the Church is alive today!”

“In these last months I have felt that my strength had diminished and I asked God earnestly in prayer to enlighten me with His light to make me make the right decision, not for my own good, but for the good of the Church. I have taken this step in full awareness of its seriousness and also its newness, but with a profound peace of mind. Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, agonized choices, always keeping in mind the good of the Church, not of oneself.”

“Allow me here to return once again to 19 April, 2005. The gravity of the decision lay precisely in the fact that, from that moment on, I was always and for always engaged by the Lord. Always—whoever assumes the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and entirely to everyone, to the whole Church. His life, so to speak, is totally deprived of its private dimension. I experienced, and I am experiencing it precisely now, that one receives life precisely when they give it. Before I said that many people who love the Lord also love St. Peter’s Successor and are fond of him; that the Pope truly has brothers and sisters, sons and daughters all over the world and that he feels safe in the embrace of their communion; because he no longer belongs to himself but he belongs to all and all belong to him.”

“’Always’ is also ‘forever’–there is no return to private life. My decision to renounce the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this. I am not returning to private life, to a life of trips, meetings, receptions, conferences, etc. I am not abandoning the cross, but am remaining beside the Crucified Lord in a new way. I no longer bear the power of the office for the governance of the Church, but I remain in the service of prayer, within St. Peter’s paddock, so to speak. St. Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, will be a great example to me in this. He has shown us the way for a life that, active or passive, belongs wholly to God’s work.”

“I also thank each and every one of you for the respect and understanding with which you have received this important decision. I will continue to accompany the Church’s journey through prayer and reflection, with the dedication to the Lord and His Bride that I have tried to live every day up to now and that I want to always live. I ask you to remember me to God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals who are called to such an important task, and for the new Successor of the Apostle Peter. Many the Lord accompany him with the light and strength of His Spirit.”

“We call upon the maternal intercession of Mary, the Mother of God and of the Church, that she might accompany each of us and the entire ecclesial community. We entrust ourselves to her with deep confidence.”

“Dear friends! God guides His Church, always sustaining her even and especially in difficult times. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the only true vision of the path of the Church and of the world. In our hearts, in the heart of each one of you, may there always be the joyous certainty that the Lord is beside us, that He does not abandon us, that He is near and embraces us with His love. Thank you.”

Pope Benedict XVI’s latest and last Motu Proprio : Normas Nonnullas on the Papal Conclave (Updated)


Pope Benedict XVI has published his last Motu Proprio concerning the rules of the Conclave as laid out in the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, by Blessed Pope John Paul II, to clarify and modify some portions of the rules to suit the developments in the current time, and to affirm the rules as written in the Universi Dominici Gregis.


1. Cardinal-electors that had been given the right to elect the new Pope and had been rightfully granted that right must not be deprived of his right to join the Conclave and elect the new Pope.


2. It grants the College of Cardinals more liberty in the date of the commencement of the Conclave, providing all the Cardinals rightfully given the voting rights and intending to attend the Conclave has been gathered in Rome, as opposed to the previous rule of compulsory 15 days between the vacancy of the See of Rome to the beginning of the Conclave. 15 days here should still be observed, but if the College deems it right for the Conclave to begin, they can do so. Thus, the Conclave can begin earlier than 15 March 2013 for this year’s Conclave.


3. The whole area of the Vatican City and the areas around the Sistine Chapel will be restricted during the period of the Conclave, to prevent any leakage of secrecy of the Conclave to the outside world. Especially the area from Domus Sancta Marthae where the Cardinals reside during the Conclave and the Sistine Chapel, where they gather and vote. Anyone breaching this rule, will be given latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication, which is more precisely mentioned than the previous rule, which only mentioned severe punishment. Latae sententiae excommunication is specified in the new ruling.


4. The oaths prescribed in the Universi Dominici Gregis, to be taken by every Cardinal-electors at the start of the Conclave. In addition, in the new rule, all those involved in the Conclave, also have to take the oath, not just the Cardinal-electors :

Latin : ‘Ego N. N. promitto et iuro me inviolate servaturum esse secretum absolutum cum omnibus quotquot participes non sunt Collegii Cardinalium electorum, hoc quidem in perpetuum, nisi mihi datur expresse peculiaris facultas a novo Pontifice electo eiusve Successoribus, in omnibus quae directe vel indirecte respiciunt suffragia et scrutinia ad novum Pontificem eligendum.

Itemque promitto et iuro me nullo modo in Conclavi usurum esse instrumentis quibuslibet ad vocem transmittendam vel recipiendam aut ad imagines exprimendas quovis modo aptis de iis quae tempore electionis fiunt intra fines Civitatis Vaticanae, atque praecipue de iis quae quolibet modo directe vel indirecte attinent ad negotia coniuncta cum ipsa electione. Declaro me editurum esse ius iurandum utpote qui plane noverim quamlibet eius violationem adducturam esse excommunicationis mihi poenam latae sententiae Sedi Apostolicae reservatae.’

English (rough translation) : ‘I, NN., promise and swear to keep inviolate the absolute secret from all those who are not participants in the (election of the Pope) by the College of Cardinals, even in perpetuity, unless expressly given me special permission from the newly elected Pope and his successors, in all things which are directly or indirectly concern the votes and ballots to the choosing a new Pope.

So again, I promise and I swear I am in no way, whatsoever, to the sound of instruments in the Conclave of sending or receiving, or would make use of to  represent the images in any way suitable at the time of the election are to be done within the confines of Vatican City on those matters which, in any way, and especially on those matters which pertain to the business of directly or indirectly linked to with the election. It is well explained and clear to me, who so obviously should know that any violation of his oath will lead to excommunication to me, under the penalty of latae sententiae excommunication, reserved to the Apostolic See.


5. That the new Pope can only be elected with secret ballot or scrutiny. No acclamation, no compromise, and no absolute majority (or more than 50% of votes) in the event of long conclave. This has been earlier abrogated by Pope Benedict XVI who reiterated the absolute requirement of at least two-thirds of all Cardinals’ votes for one to be elected a new Pope.


6. If the Conclave failed to reach conclusion after a period of time, a day of prayer and reflection, and contemplation should be included before voting begins again. Then in the next round of voting, only the two names with the highest number of votes in the previous ballot would be included.


7. The formula of the question by the Cardinal Dean to the newly elected Pope is affirmed :


Latin : Acceptasne electionem de te canonice factam in Summum Pontificem?

English : Do you accept the Canonical election as the Supreme Pontiff?


Latin : Accepto

English : I accept


Latin : Quo nomine vis vocari?

English : What do you wish to be called?


Latin : Vocabor X

English : I wish to be called X.

(X will be the regnal name, for example, Benedict for our Pope Benedict XVI)

2013 Papal Conclave Update : Conclave may begin earlier than 15 March 2013

The Vatican has announced that there is indeed a possibility that the Conclave may begin earlier than the earlier announced 15-20 March 2013 timeframe. This is because unlike normal period of sede vacante (or vacant See ‘of Rome’) due to the death of the previous Pope, Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to retire and renounce the Papacy has been announced well ahead of the actual date of beginning of the sede vacante.

Thus, the Cardinals have ample time to prepare for the Conclave and travel to Rome by the time the See becomes vacant on 28 February 2013 at 8.00 pm Rome time. This would then allow the Conclave to begin much earlier, perhaps in early March 2013, and will allow a new Pope to be elected immediately, and then the new Pope can already be installed (at St. Peter’s Square ceremony of the imposition of the pallium and the Fisherman’s Ring) and enthroned (at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Cathedral of Rome), before the Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday (24 March 2013).

If the Conclave begins only on the 15th of March or even later, there would be no time left available for the Pope to be properly installed and enthroned before the busy Holy Week begins. Another advantage is also that the Cardinal-electors (especially the residential Archbishops and bishops of Archdioceses and dioceses around the world) can return to their home and celebrate the Holy Week with their diocese/archdiocese, rather than be stuck in Rome due to the late Conclave.