VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2001 ( In a message to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, John Paul II expressed the hope that the obstacles to full Christian unity will be surmounted.

The papal message was sent for the feast of St. Andrew, patron of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, considered "first among equals" among the Orthodox Churches.

As usual, a Vatican delegation, led this year by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, traveled to Fanar, the patriarchate´s headquarters in Istanbul, Turkey, to take part in the Nov. 30 celebrations.

The patriarch will return the courtesy June 29, when he sends a delegation for the feast of SS. Peter and Paul, patrons of the Church of Rome.

Before the exchange of messages between the patriarch and Cardinal Kasper, a solemn liturgy was held in St. George´s Cathedral in Fanar, presided over by Bartholomew I.

During his visit, Cardinal Kasper will meet with the synodal commission responsible for relations with the Catholic Church, as well as with local Catholic and non-Catholic Christian leaders.

In his message to the patriarch, John Paul II referred to the "the difficulties experienced in the last years by the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue," composed of Orthodox and Catholics.

The Holy Father urged the overcoming of obstacles. "Dialogue must once again find its initial positive spirit and be led by the will to resolve genuine problems," he said. "It must also demonstrate that enthusiasm that only theological faith and hope can nourish."

The Pope expressed his gratitude to Patriarch Bartholomew I for his "willingness" manifested "with constancy, in responding favorably to the requests for collaboration presented by the Catholic Church and encouraging the initiatives of the Orthodox Churches that entail the participation of the Church of Rome."

Lastly, the Holy Father referred to the critical international situation. "In these recent times, terrorism and wars, with all the burden of death and destruction they entail, have generated an anxiety that paralyzes populations and retards the normal development of civil life," he said.

In this context, John Paul II said that he considered it opportune to urge believers to participate in a Day of Prayer for Peace on Jan. 24 "to implore God for his protection over all peoples and revive men´s consciences."