"Smooth the Way Toward Full Unity," John Paul II Urges

Papal Message to 7th Inter-Christian Meeting

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 3, 2001 (Zenit.org).- In a message to the seventh Inter-Christian Symposium, John Paul II stresses the need to “smooth the way toward full unity between believers and Christ” through prayer, study and face-to-face meetings.

The three-day symposium, organized by the Institute of Spirituality of the Pontifical Antonianum Athenaeum and the School of Theology of the University of Aristotle of Thessalonica, Greece, is being held in Reggio Calabria, Italy, through Tuesday. Its topic is “Soteriological Perspectives in the Eastern and Western Tradition.”

At the opening of the symposium, Monsignor Eleuterio F. Fortino, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, read a papal message addressed to Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the council. The Vatican Press Office today published the message, which was dated Aug. 10.

In the message John Paul II underlines “the importance of this initiative between the two institutes, one Catholic and the other Orthodox, which hold regular meetings to reflect on their common Christian inheritance, in the perspective of serving the man of our time and contributing, with prayer, study and face-to-face meetings, to smooth the way, as far as possible, toward full unity between believers and Christ.”

“Therefore, it is nothing short of useful to get to know one another reciprocally and increasingly better, to verify convergence and complementarity in the theological field, and to further the dialogue on questions of common interest, allowing oneself to be guided by sacred Scripture and Tradition,” the Holy Father continues.

John Paul II recalled his meeting last May with Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece and quoted from their joint declaration: “We firmly believe that in all their manifestations, relations between Christians must be characterized by honesty, prudence and knowledge of the problems.”

In this connection, the Pope prayed to the Lord to “guide our steps on the way of Truth and Love,” so that “moments of dialogue and fraternal reflection among Christians will multiply in order to attain, as soon as possible, that full unity for which the Lord prayed in the last moments of his earthly life.”

John Paul II also indicated that “the topic chosen this year touches an essential point of the proclamation of the Gospel: the redemption brought about by Christ with his death and resurrection, redemption of man created to share in the very life of God, as St. Ambrose affirms in a well-known expression: ´The Son of God became man so that man could become God´ (De Incarnatione, 54).”

“Looking full of hope at the new millennium that opens before us, how can we not recall the providential reality of the immense gift of God given to us in Christ, our redeemer?” the Pope asks.

He continues with a quotation from his apostolic letter Tertio Millennio Ineunte, in which he highlights the need to “respect an essential principle of the Christian view of life: the primacy of grace.”

The Holy Father regards the topic of the symposium as important and in need of further study, in order to look “at its evolution in the East and West, [which] will surely be a precious occasion to capture all its richness.”

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