Joint Statement of Pope and Ecumenical Patriarch

«We Have Continued the ‘Dialogue of Charity'»

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 1, 2004 ( Here is a translation of the Joint Declaration signed by John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople and published today.

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«Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love» (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).

1. In the spirit of faith in Christ and of the reciprocal charity that unites us, we thank God for the gift of this our new meeting, which takes place on the feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, evidencing our firm resolve to continue on the path toward full communion between us in Christ.

2. Many are the positive steps that have characterized this common path, especially beginning with the historical event that we recall today: the embrace between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, on January 5-6 of 1964. Today, we, their Successors, meet again together to commemorate worthily before God, in fidelity to the memory and the original intentions, that blessed meeting, now part of the history of the Church.

3. The embrace of our respective Predecessors of venerated memory in Jerusalem expressed visibly a hope present in the heart of everyone, as the Statement referred: «With our eyes turned to Christ, archetype and author, with the Father, of unity and peace, they pray to God that this meeting be the sign and prelude of things to come for the glory of God and the illumination of his faithful people. After so many centuries of silence, they have now met with the desire to fulfill the will of the Lord and to proclaim the ancient truth of his Gospel entrusted to the Church.»1

4. Unity and Peace! The hope lit by that historical meeting has illuminated the path of these last decades. Aware that the Christian world has been suffering for centuries the tragedy of separation, our Predecessors and we ourselves have with perseverance continued the «dialogue of charity,» with our gaze turned to that luminous and blessed day in which it will be possible to commune at the same chalice of the holy Body and the precious Blood of the Lord.2 The many ecclesial events, which have characterized the last forty years, have given foundation and consistency to the commitment of fraternal charity: a charity that, bearing lessons of the past, will be ready to pardon, incline to believe more readily in the good than in the evil, that will attempt first of all to conform itself to the Divine Redeemer, and to allow itself to be drawn and transformed by Him.3

5. I thank the Lord for the exemplary gestures of reciprocal charity, of participation and sharing, which he has given us to fulfill, among which it is proper to recall the visit of the Pope to Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios in 1979, when, in the See of Fanar, the creation of the «International Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church in their ensemble» was announced, a further step to support the «dialogue of charity,» the «dialogue of truth»; the visit of Patriarch Dimitrios to Rome in 1987; our meeting in Rome, on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in 1995, when we prayed in St. Peter’s, though separating painfully during the celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy, because it was not yet possible to drink from the same chalice of the Lord. Then, more recently, the meeting in Assisi for the «Day of Prayer for Peace in the World» and the Joint Declaration for the Safeguarding of Creation, signed in 2002.

6. Despite our firm resolve to continue on the path toward full communion, it would have been unrealistic not to expect obstacles of various kinds: doctrinal first of all, but also deriving from the conditioning of a difficult history. Moreover, new problems arose from the profound changes that took place in the European sociopolitical realm, which were not free from consequences in relations between the Christian Churches. With the return to freedom of Christians in Central and Eastern Europe, old fears were reawakened, making dialogue difficult. St. Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians, «May everything be done among you in charity,» must still, however, resound within and among us.

7. The «International Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church in their ensemble,» begun with so much hope, has marked the steps in the last years. It can still remain as an ideal instrument to study the ecclesiological and historical problems, which are at the base of our difficulties, and find possible solutions. It is our duty to continue in the decided commitment to reactivate the works as soon as possible. In recognition of the reciprocal initiatives in this connection of the Sees of Rome and of Constantinople, we turn to the Lord so that he will sustain our resolve and convince all of how indispensable it is to continue the «dialogue of truth.»

8. Our meeting today in Rome also enables us to address fraternally some problems and misunderstandings that have arisen recently. The long practice of the «dialogue of charity» comes to our aid precisely in these circumstances, so that the difficulties may be addressed with serenity and not slow down and darken the path undertaken toward full communion in Christ.

9. In the face of a world suffering all kinds of divisions and imbalances, today’s meeting is an effort to recall in a concrete way and with force the importance that Christians and Churches live among themselves in peace and harmony, to witness concordantly the message of the Gospel in a more credible and convincing way.

10. In the particular context of Europe, on the way toward higher forms of integration and enlargement towards the East of the Continent, let us thank the Lord for this positive development and express the hope that in this new situation collaboration between Catholics and Orthodox will grow. So many are the challenges to be addressed together to contribute to the good of society: to heal with love the wound of terrorism, to infuse a hope of peace, to contribute to cure so many painful conflicts; to restore to the European continent the awareness of its Christian roots; to construct a real dialogue with Islam, because from indifference and reciprocal ignorance only diffidence and even hatred can ensue; to nourish the awareness of the sacredness of human life; to operate so that science will not deny the divine spark that every man receives with the gift of life; to collaborate so that this earth of ours is not disfigured and creation is able to preserve the beauty God has given it; but above all, to proclaim with renewed commitment the evangelical message, showing contemporary man how much the Gospel can help him to find himself and to build a more humane world.

11. Let us pray that the Lord give peace to the Church and the world and that he vivify with the wisdom of his Spirit our path toward full communion, «ut unum in Cristo simus.»

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1 Joint Statement of Pope Paul VI and of Patriarch Athenagoras I, Agapis Volumes, Vatican, Fanar, 1971, n. 50, p. 120.

2 See Allocution of Patriarch Athenagoras I to Pope Paul VI , (January 5, 1964), ibid., n. 48, p. 109.

3 See Allocution of Pope Paul VI to Patriarch Athenagoras I, (January 6, 1964), ibid., n. 49, p. 117.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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