Relics Ceremony a Step Toward Unity, Says Bartholomew I

Orthodox Patriarch Sees It as a Highlight of His Tenure

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 29, 2004 ( Bartholomew I says that receiving the relics of two Doctors of the Church from John Paul II was his most important service in 13 years as ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople.

The Orthodox patriarch on Saturday received the relics of Sts. Gregory Nazianzen and John Chrysostom from the Pope in a solemn liturgy held in St. Peter’s Basilica. The two saints were both bishops of Constantinople.

The «first among equals» of the Orthodox Churches said: «I am overwhelmed and very happy. Not only personally, but so is the whole Church of Constantinople and I can say without reservations, the whole of Orthodoxy, the whole Christian East.»

«It is a very important step towards full unity between our sister Churches,» Patriarch Bartholomew said in an interview on Vatican Radio. «I consider it as the most important of my patriarchal services over these last 13 years. We give thanks to His Holiness,» John Paul II.

Bartholomew I was elected successor of St. Andrew the Apostle in the See of Constantinople in 1991.

The patriarch welcomed in his plane, for the return trip to Istanbul, Turkey, a Holy See delegation headed by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

The papal representatives will join the Church of Constantinople and many other Catholic and Orthodox leaders on Tuesday for the celebration of the feast of St. Andrew.

«We can expect other steps forward,» said Bartholomew I. «We cannot foresee which ones they will be, but they will always be positive, always fraternal steps that will promote good relations between us. Each one of these steps will be a stone in the construction of the building of full unity.»

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