An ecumenical initiative (1963)

From the very first preparation of the first session of the Council, La Pira had journeyed to meet metropolitans and patriarchs of the eastern churches.

As the second session approached, and after conducting the necessary investigation, he deemed that the time was ripe for organizing an event in Florence to commemorate the Council of Florence allowing authoritative exponents of the Orthodox church to be in Italy at the time of the Council and therefore meet with Catholic bishops.

An hostile press campaign and an equally hostile stance by Archbishop Florit made the initiative impossible which had it taken place would have had an extraordinary symbolic importance.

“…I said to myself ‘let’s suppose they come to Florence (for an act of common veneration) the Catholic and Orthodox Patriarchs (from Constantinople, Moscow and all the others) let’s suppose that during this “meeting” at the venerated tomb of Patriarch Joseph (question: why did the Lord have him die in Florence at the very end of the Council?) there were either directly or indirectly present the Holy Father (the Patriarch of the West): wouldn’t this fact, this simple meeting of prayer and hope alone, by merely virtue of its occurring be an evident sign of the unification that Asanza, of unification getting nearer?

… in my view it’s worth considering. The special situation today of Florence in the world (including the “socialist countries” and the “USSR”) make it appropriate to perform this service which will raise the banner of church unification before the eyes of the world (East and West) as well as of peace among nations.

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