Ecumenical Talks Must Go Forward, Pope Insists

Receives Delegation of Constantinople Patriarchate

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 1, 2002 ( John Paul II told a visiting Orthodox delegation that the theological dialogue between Rome and Constantinople must move forward, despite the slow progress.

Reviewing the theological dialogue that began in 1979 between the two Churches, the Pope said progress seems slow on the ecumenical road, but that does not rule out the hope for unity in the future.

The Holy Father made his evaluation Saturday to a delegation from the Orthodox Patriarchate which was visiting the Vatican to celebrate the solemnity of the Sts. Peter and Paul. The traditional visit is returned by the Roman Church on Nov. 30, when a Vatican delegation goes to Istanbul, Turkey, to celebrate the feast of St. Andrew.

«Despite our efforts, this dialogue marks our pace; we see our impotence to overcome the divisions and find in ourselves the strength to look with hope to the future,» the Holy Father said.

«This delicate phase must not discourage us,» he added. «[We] cannot accept this state of affairs with indifference. … We cannot refuse to continue the theological dialogue, an indispensable step toward unity.»

The Holy Father reminded his listeners that this is an objective that in the course of the year the two Christian families have worked on, with common direction and determination, through important initiatives, beginning with the Day of Prayer in Assisi up to and including the recent Declaration of Venice on protection of the environment, signed by John Paul II and Patriarch Bartholomew I.

Much «still remains to be done,» especially in view of the effort to reinforce or bring peace to various parts of the world, including the Holy Land.

To change the world, «we must join forces, be together, act together,» Peter’s Successor said. A «dialogue in charity» must support and nourish the «dialogue in truth,» that is, the commitment to overcome theological obstacles that still divide the two Churches, he concluded.

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