VATICAN CITY, JUNE 30, 2005 ( Benedict XVI appealed for the resumption of the official theological dialogue with the Orthodox Churches, blocked since 2000.

The Pope made his appeal today when receiving a delegation of the ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

The delegation, headed by Metropolitan Ioannis Zizioulas of Pergamum, participated on Wednesday in the Mass of the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul at the Vatican, at which Benedict XVI presided.

"The need is felt to join forces and spare no energies so that the official theological dialogue, begun in 1980 between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches as a whole, is resumed with renewed vigor," said the Holy Father during the audience he granted his Orthodox guests.

The official theological dialogue is carried out through a Catholic-Orthodox international mixed commission made up of representatives of the Catholic Church and various Orthodox Churches.

The commission's work has been blocked since the meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, in 2000, when clear divisions arose over the "Theological and Canonical Implications of Uniatism," the term used by the Orthodox to refer to Christians in countries of Orthodox tradition who are in union with the Pope.

Serious commitment

During today's audience, Benedict XVI thanked Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, as "he is dedicating himself to reactivate the work of the commission."

"It is my firm determination to support and encourage this work," the Pope said. "The theological search, which must address complex questions and find solutions that are not reductive, is a serious commitment, from which we cannot exempt ourselves.

"If we cannot ignore that the division makes less effective the most holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature, how can we exempt ourselves from the task of examining our differences with clarity and good will, addressing them with the profound conviction that they be resolved?"

Benedict XVI added that "the unity we seek is neither absorption nor fusion, but respect for the multiform fullness of the Church which, according to the will of her founder, Jesus Christ, must always be one, holy, catholic and apostolic."

Finally, the Bishop of Rome manifested the richness that the Eastern Churches contribute, in particular the Orthodox, to the Catholic Church itself.

Quoting the Second Vatican Council decree on ecumenism, "Unitatis Redintegratio," Benedict XVI concluded: "It is hardly surprising, then, if from time to time one tradition has come nearer to a full appreciation of some aspects of a mystery of revelation than the other, or has expressed it to better advantage. In such cases, these various theological expressions are to be considered often as mutually complementary rather than conflicting."