Pope and Orthodox Patriarch Express Words of Unity

Benedict XVI Sends Message to Bartholomew I in Bologna

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BOLOGNA, Italy, NOV. 21, 2005 (Zenit.org).- In a message to the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, Benedict XVI renewed his intention to continue on the path of Christian unity.

The message to Patriarch Bartholomew I also stated that the Pope hoped to travel soon to Istanbul, Turkey, headquarters of the Orthodox patriarchate.

The papal message was read by Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, retired president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, during the Byzantine-rite vespers he presided over Saturday in the Basilica of St. Petronius in Bologna. On hand was Archbishop Carlo Caffarra of Bologna.

Patriarch Bartholomew I, the «first among equals» of the Orthodox Church, traveled to Italy at the invitation of the University of Bologna, to receive an honorary doctorate for «Conservation of Cultural Goods.» The honor was conferred on him Saturday.

Benedict XVI in his message congratulated the patriarch for this «opportune» recognition of «Your Holiness’ action to promote the growth in public opinion of the understanding of the values proper of creation, work of God, manifestation of his freedom, wisdom and love.»

The Pope invited the Orthodox patriarch «to intensify all efforts to journey toward the full unity of all the disciples of Christ.»
<br> In his message, the Roman Pontiff expressed his «joyful» hope to «meet personally, when God wills,» with the ecumenical patriarch in his See of Constantinople.

Bartholomew I, with jurisdiction over some 200 million faithful worldwide, invited the Pope to visit Istanbul at the beginning of his pontificate. The Turkish government echoed this invitation; the visit is expected to take place next year.

Source of hope

In the message read by Cardinal Etchegaray, the Pope renewed his commitment to dedicate himself «to the holy cause of promoting Christian unity, which Your Holiness bears so profoundly in his heart.»

In the homily delivered during vespers, Bartholomew I expressed «the desire to meet soon personally» with the Pope.

The patriarch of Constantinople referred to the «permanent division» between Orthodox and Catholics as «a motive of great sorrow for our heart as Christians,» but at the same time he said that it is a «source of great hope to see that so many steps are being taken, above all through knowledge, friendship and reciprocal collaboration.»

In particular, he stressed the need of Catholics and Orthodox to give common testimony of the Gospel before a «modern society which increasingly moves away from the theocentric vision of life, denying in fact our divine origin and the object of our existence, which is found in Jesus, the risen God-Man.»

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