Pope's Letter to Bartholomew I at Return of Relics

“A Blessed Opportunity to Reinforce Our Path of Reconciliation”

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 28, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the letter John Paul II addressed to Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I, on the occasion of the return the relics of Sts. Gregory Nazianzen and John Chrysostom during an ecumenical celebration Saturday in St. Peter’s Basilica.

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To the Beloved Brother Bartholomew I, Patriarch of Constantinople:

1. Very vivid in my heart is the joy of our meeting in the atrium of this Vatican basilica on June 29 of this year, on the occasion of the feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. And now the Lord, in his benevolence, again gives us the possibility to live here, before the tomb of the Apostle Peter, another fraternal meeting in love, in prayer, and in the determination to walk together toward that full and visible unity that Christ wills for his disciples.

This opportunity is offered to us by our common veneration of the relics of Sts. Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom, two Fathers of the Church of the East, two holy patriarchs of Constantinople, two Doctors of the Church who, together with St. Basil the Great, have always been honored with a feast in the Catholic Church. And we, every time that “we meet with these our Fathers, we are confirmed in the faith and encouraged in hope” (apostolic letter “Patres Ecclesiae,” No. 1).

2. Now, some of their relics — remains of those bodies that lived the following of Christ, suffered persecution for his Name, and were temples of the Holy Spirit — return to Constantinople.

In handing back these very holy relics we perceive a blessed opportunity to purify our wounded memories, to reinforce our path of reconciliation, to confirm that the faith of these holy Doctors of ours is the faith of the Churches of East and West. We see, at the same time, the propitious hour “to show in word and deed today the immense riches that our Churches preserve in the coffers of their traditions” (“Orientale Lumen,” No. 4).

This is the “propitious moment” to unite to their intercession our prayer so that the Lord will hasten the hour in which we will be able to live together, in the celebration of the holy Eucharist, full communion, and thus contribute in a more effective manner to make the world believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord.

3. Beloved Brother, I will never cease to seek firmly and determinedly this communion among the disciples of Christ, as my desire, in response to the will of the Lord, consists in being servant of communion “in truth and in love so that the ship — that beautiful symbol which the World Council of Churches has chosen as its emblem — will not be buffeted by the storms and will one day reach its haven.”

The Lord, who comes among his saints (see Zechariah 14:5), confirm our aims and preserve us in the daily commitment of the fulfilling of the new commandment. In the patience of Christ and in the charity of God, with brotherly affection.

From the Vatican, November 27, 2004


[Translation by ZENIT]

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