CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 5, 2005 ( Benedict XVI believes that the suffering borne by Orthodox and Catholics because they can't concelebrate the Eucharist together, should be the goad that prompts them to reach full unity.

The Pope makes that proposal in a message sent to the inter-Christian symposium on "The Eucharist in the Eastern and Western Tradition with Particular Reference to Ecumenical Dialogue," being held in Assisi, Italy, through Wednesday.

The four-day initiative is organized by the Institute of Spirituality of the Pontifical University Antonianum of Rome and the Department of Theology of the Aristotle University of Thessalonica, Greece.

In the message, addressed to Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Pope says that "[s]een as particularly urgent in our time is the search for full visible unity among all the disciples of Christ and for this reason, there is a need for a more profound spirituality of greater reciprocal love."

After recalling "with how much love Eastern Christians celebrate liturgical worship, above all the Eucharistic celebration," the Holy Father acknowledges that the "absence of full communion does not allow, unfortunately, the concelebration that for both is the sign of that full unity to which we are all called."

"In any case, it will be a call to intensify prayer, study and dialogue with the objective of resolving the differences that still remain," proposes the papal message. The message was read in the symposium's opening session Sunday.

An objective for all

Benedict XVI wrote: "To achieve the full communion of Christians must be an objective for all those who profess faith in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, 'faithful and shepherds alike. This concern extends to everyone, according to his talent, whether it be exercised in his daily Christian life or in his theological and historical research.'

"In this line, the institutes of theological teaching can play a fundamental role in the formation of the new generations and in offering renewed Christian witness in today's world."

The congress opened with a Eucharistic celebration by Catholic participants, in the crypt of St. Mary of the Angels of Assisi, in the presence of the 40 Orthodox participants.

These symposiums began in 1992. They are held one year in Greece and the next in Italy. The topic of the Eucharist and ecumenism was addressed later by Catholic Archbishop Giovanni Spiteris of Corfu, and studied further by 12 experts -- six Orthodox and six Catholic.

Monsignor Eleuterio Fortino, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, is representing this Vatican organization at the symposium.