John Paul II Hopes Process for Unity Can "Speed Up"

Presses for Dialogue With Orthodox

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 29, 2001 ( Encouraged by his trip to Ukraine, John Paul II today called for a relaunching of theological dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox.

The Pope directed his words to an Orthodox delegation that had come to Rome, during a homily in St. Peter´s Square.

The Holy Father said that during his Ukraine trip he felt the need for unity between Churches and exclaimed: «How much I wish that the time for reconciliation and reciprocal communion would speed up!»

As in previous years on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Bartholomew I, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople and «first among equals» in the Orthodox world, sent a delegation to the Eternal City to express his desire to dialogue with Rome.

Among the patriarchate´s envoys was Orthodox Metropolitan Jeremiah of France, president of the Conference of European Churches, a promoter of dialogue with the Catholic Church and the Christian world.

The other two members of the delegation were U.S. Orthodox Bishop Dimitrios de Xanthos and Archdeacon Elpidophoros, assistant secretary of the Holy Synod of the ecumenical patriarchate.

«Welcome!» the Pope said an address earlier in the day, before the midday Angelus. «The house of Peter welcomes you with esteem and affection.»

The Holy Father will return this courteous Orthodox gesture when he sends a delegation to the Patriarchate of Constantinople at the end of November, on the feast of St. Andrew, Peter´s brother.

Before the midday Angelus, the Pope received his guests in private audience. Because of the divisions that broke out in 1054, Orthodox and Catholics cannot concelebrate Mass.

«This cause of suffering,» the Pope said during the meeting, must be a «stimulus to find ways that allow to overcome the divisions that continue to subsist between Orthodox and Catholics.»

The time has come to renew the theological dialogue between Orthodox and Catholics, the Pope said. He added that the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and the Catholic-Orthodox Commission «are in close touch to decide together the best way to relaunch the dialogue.»

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