ISTANBUL, Turkey, NOV. 30, 2004 (Zenit.org).- A papal envoy proposed the overcoming of suspicions between Orthodox and Catholics, when he attended celebrations for the feast of St. Andrew, patron of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, headed the Vatican delegation that participated in the solemn liturgy presided over today by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in St. George’s Cathedral.
The cardinal and other members of the delegation arrived in the Turkish city in the same plane that had taken the patriarch to Rome, where, last Saturday, the Pope handed him the relics of Sts. Gregory Nazianzen and John Chrysostom.
The two Doctors of the Church were past bishops of the see of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) founded by the Apostle Andrew.
“Christians — Catholics and Orthodox — should go beyond suspicions and slander and recognize themselves reciprocally as Christians,” Cardinal Kasper proposed in his message to Bartholomew I, according to Vatican Radio.
The return of the relics of the Fathers of the Eastern Church has not been “simply a gift or a sign of merely human friendship,” the cardinal said.
“They are the relics of two profoundly venerated witnesses and of two teachers of our common faith of the first millennium, a faith to which East and West have remained faithful in the second millennium, and which we are called by our common Lord, Jesus Christ, to witness to together in the third millennium,” he added.
“What unites us is, therefore, much more than a human communion; it is a communion in faith,” the papal representative said.
Yet, he lamented, “we are aware” that communion between Catholics and Orthodox “is not yet full communion.”
Cardinal Kasper proposed that they reinforce their “will to advance on the path to full communion.”
In particular, the cardinal appealed for the reactivation, “without delays, of the international theological dialogue” between Orthodox and Catholics, blocked by differences over Eastern-rite Catholics who profess fidelity to the Pope and who live in predominantly Orthodox countries.
While in Istanbul, the Vatican delegation is holding discussions with the Orthodox Synodal Commission for Relations with the Catholic Church.