VATICAN CITY, OCT. 13, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II urged all Christians, including Catholics, to make an examination of conscience to see where they have delayed or are delaying progress toward full ecclesial unity.
The Pope made his appeal today in the presence of Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Teoctist, who ended his weeklong visit to Rome by participating in a eucharistic celebration presided over by the Holy Father.
Orthodox and Catholics have been divided since the schism of 1054, in which Pope Leo IX and Patriarch Michael Cerularius of Constantinople exchanged excommunications. The excommunications were lifted in 1965, but both Churches have yet to attain full communion.
“Through baptism we form part of the one Body of Christ, but, unfortunately, have we not, at times, rejected this invitation?” the Pontiff asked in his homily.
“Have we not, perhaps, torn the Lord’s seamless robe, by separating ourselves from one another?” the Pope continued. “Yes, our reciprocal division is contrary to his will.”
“To attain full communion, we must overcome our slowness and smallness of heart,” John Paul II added. “We must cultivate the spirituality of communion, which is capable of regarding a brother in the faith as someone who belongs to me.”
“We must nourish incessantly the passion for unity,” he said.
Patriarch Teoctist, who earlier had delivered a homily under the Archangel Michael’s cupola, stressed similar words: “The division, separation, isolation of Christians among themselves are not ways of witness of Christ, who prayed that all might be one.”
“The spiritual crisis of our time requires that we rediscover the connection between penance and conversion, or the return to Christ, meek and compassionate, on the one hand,” the patriarch said, “and the reconstruction of communion between the Churches, on the other.”
“Contemporary secularization is accompanied by a fragmentation and an impoverishment of the interior spiritual life of man,” the Orthodox leader said. “Thus, secularization impoverishes spiritual communion among Christians even more. Hence, together we must unite the quest for holiness of Christian life with the realization of Christian unity.”
The Romanian Orthodox Church is a historical bridge between Catholics and Orthodox. It is the only Latin country that became part of the Orthodox realm after the schism of 1054. The very etymology of its name denotes nostalgia for its past, linked to Rome.
Romania was the first Orthodox country visited by the Pope, in May 1999. Patriarch Teoctist’s visit to Rome was in gratitude for that papal visit.
In responding to the patriarch’s address, John Paul II said: “In celebrating the authentic Eucharist according to their respective traditions, the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches already live a profound communion, although it is still not full.”
“May the blessed day arrive soonest when we will really be able to live our perfect communion in fullness,” the Pope exclaimed.
Patriarch Teoctist and John Paul II were able to share the Liturgy of the Word. They also professed together the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, in Romanian, in keeping with the liturgical formula of the Byzantine Churches, demonstrating that the fundamental theological problem of the schism between the two Churches has been surmounted.
But the two leaders separated for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
In the peace greeting, established by the liturgy, the Bishop of Rome and the bishop of Bucharest embraced, and, at the end of the Mass, they blessed the congregation together.