Preparing for the Ecumenical Patriarch

«I Invite All to Pray for the Full Unity of Christians»

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 27, 2004 ( Here is a translation of the address John Paul II gave today before praying the Angelus with the thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square. He gave the address in Italian.

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1. The day after tomorrow, on June 29, we will celebrate the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, and during this happy feast day we will have the joy to receive in the Vatican His Holiness Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople. We want to commemorate together the historic encounter between our venerable predecessors Pope Paul VI and the Patriarch Athenagoras, who 40 years ago exchanged an unforgettable embrace of fraternity and peace in Jerusalem. This occurred within the pilgrimage of the servant-of-God Paul VI in 1964, during the Second Vatican Council.

2. Precisely in November of the same year, the Council fathers approved the decree «Unitatis Redintegratio.» In this decree, it was solemnly affirmed that the promotion of unity among all Christians was one of the principal objectives of the Council, and that to achieve this all the institutions and ecclesial communities must direct their efforts toward achieving this objective (cf. No. 1 and No. 18).

During this period, in spite of the difficulties that remain even today, notable steps were taken toward ecumenism and within the People of God an ecumenical sensibility developed. The week of prayer for the unity of Christians has come to form part of the normal liturgical-pastoral path of dioceses and parishes. The associations and ecclesial communities that are dedicated to be constantly attentive to the reciprocal knowledge and friendship between Christians of different confessions are numerous, so much so that more and more Christians are becoming more united in works of solidarity, justice and peace.

3. While we prepare to receive the ecumenical patriarch, I invite all to pray for the full unity of Christians, invoking the intercession of the Virgin Mary. May the Holy Mother of God, to whom the Christians of the East are so devoted, procure that the memory of the embrace between Paul VI and Athenagoras I renew the commitment to communion between Orthodox and Catholics.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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