In his role as Fisherman, it seems, Pope Francis is clearly angling for a reunion of East and West, the two lungs of Christ he calls them, insisting that they need to breathe together.
Small but potent signs of this plea for unity continue to pile up. From his first moments as Pope onward, Francis has kept reiterating his role and title as Bishop. Of Rome. This is a key signal, a clarion call to the Eastern churches - since, for the Orthodox, the Pope is viewed, not as a ruler, not as an authoritative deliverer of infallible statements - but as first among equals. This status was clearly evident during Francis' first official act of the Installation - when he descended to pray and venerate the tomb of St. Peter - flanked by a flock of Eastern Patriarchs (and no one else!) lining the entrance to the tomb. Even the Ecumenical Patriarch was present, someone who has not attended a Papal Investiture for a thousand years, coinciding with the great rift between East and West.
The significance of this gesture on the part of Pope Francis and the Eastern Patriarchs cannot be underestimated. Nor can the presence of the Ecumenical Patriarch, considered first among equals in the Eastern churches, where collegiality has never been abandoned, not even when it led to schism from a Roman church that demanded obedience to the pope - rather than fraternal unity, to which the East has always been open.
Note as well that the Gospel Book (given the Pope on this occasion) was carried, from start to finish by a Deacon of the Eastern Rite, wearing Eastern rite robe and stole. Using eastern rite gestures for reverencing the Gospel Book and eastern rite chanting - in Greek - of the Gospel itself. Given that the Gospels were originally written in Greek and the Ecumenical Patriarch always comes from the Greek Orthodox tradition, this powerful gesture is another clear sign offered to the Eastern Churches.
Additionally, an Eastern Rite choir sang the chants surrounding the the Gospel - using Orthodox chant style. Another clear signal: That Francis intends to continue reaching out to the East as Pope, similar to his role in Argentina, where he exercised authority both as bishop in the Roman tradition and as patriarch of the eastern church there.
All of this falls like spring rain on the ground of Eastern Orthodoxy. On the potential for Christian unity.
We are witnessing a time of great hope! May we all be one. May this springtime be fruitful.