Pope Accepts Invitation to Orthodox See

Bartholomew I Extends Offer for Visit to Istanbul

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 1, 2004 (Zenit.org).- At the end of his visit to Rome, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople invited John Paul II to visit the see of the ecumenical patriarchate, in Turkey.

The invitation was made today during a farewell luncheon, after the patriarch’s four-day stay in Rome as the guest of the Pope.

The Holy Father was pleased to accept the invitation to visit the see of the patriarchate, which is in Fanar, in Istanbul, Vatican Radio reported.

Earlier, the two religious leaders signed a joint declaration in which they reaffirm their commitment to work toward the full unity of Christians in order to proclaim the Gospel in a “more credible and convincing” way. They also relaunched the work of the International Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.

This morning, the Greek-Orthodox community of Rome attended the inauguration of the liturgical use of the Church of St. Theodore on the Palatine, at which Bartholomew I presided. The restored church was given to the Orthodox as a gift by John Paul II during the Jubilee year 2000.

The ecumenical patriarch, the “first among equals” of Orthodoxy, was accompanied by Metropolitan Gennadios of Italy. In his address during the sacred liturgy, the patriarch said that on the path toward full unity between Catholics and Orthodox “still have a long way to go,” Vatican Radio reported.

“Let us go forward despite so many difficulties through the dialogue of charity and truth,” he added.

The celebration was attended by a papal delegation which included, among others, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope’s vicar for Rome; and Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute for general affairs of the Vatican Secretariat of State.

On Wednesday, Patriarch Bartholomew I met with the members of the lay Community of Sant’Egidio, in the Basilica of St. Bartholomew, on the island of the Tiber in Rome, a church that in the year 2000 John Paul II dedicated to the memory of the 20th-century martyrs.

“The martyrdom of the last century — the century with the greatest number of martyrs for the faith in human history — has become a significant meeting place and space for unity in prayer among Christians,” a subsequent press statement explained, issued by the Sant’Egidio Community.

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