VATICAN CITY, JUNE 9, 2002 (ZENIT.org).- A step toward full unity between Catholics and Orthodox was taken when, for the first time in a millennium, a patriarch of Constantinople celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Byzantine basilica of Ravenna.
John Paul II, at the Vatican, applauded today´s event, which he said helps “encourage us to continue on the road toward full unity between the Christian East and West.”
For the first time since the schism of 1054, an Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Basilica of Sant´Apollinare in Classe in the northern Italian city. The mosaics embellishing the walls of the sixth-century structure are considered some of the greatest expressions of Byzantine art.
In his homily, Patriarch Bartholomew I expressed his hope that the event would be a harbinger of better relations between Catholics and Orthodox.
He didn´t hide the difficulties felt in theological dialogue, but he urged confidence in God, who desires unity among all his children.
“Affirming the truth, we also dialogue in love, we pray and we hope for the magnificent day, blessed by God, in which spiritual communion between the Churches will be restored,” said the Orthodox leader.
Ravenna has been a stopover for a cruiser that has been sailing the Adriatic Sea since Wednesday, as part of an environmental-protection initiative of the patriarch.
Aboard are religious leaders, including Cardinals Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Roger Etchegaray, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who are reflecting on how to protect the environment, particularly the Adriatic.
On Monday, the cruiser Festos Palace is due to arrive in Venice, where Bartholomew I will sign a declaration on protecting the environment. At the same time, John Paul II will sign at the Vatican. The events will be linked by a television connection.
In his Angelus address at the Vatican, the Pope explained that the signing “is another example of that sharing of intentions, which is the prelude to a renewed and full communion.”
“Ravenna and Venice challenge us with their same history, and encourage us to continue on the road toward full unity between the Christian East and West,” the Pope said.