ISTANBUL, Turkey, NOV. 29, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I welcomed Benedict XVI in the See of Constantinople with the words “Beloved Brother, welcome.”
“Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord,” added the Orthodox patriarch, at the end of a prayer today in the Patriarchal Church of St. George, in Constantinople, now Istanbul.
“I thank the Lord for the grace of this encounter, so filled with authentic good will and ecclesial significance,” responded the Pope, who in his English-language address urged on the dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox in search of unity.
The Holy Father, on the second day of his four-day visit to Turkey, recalled the steps taken to overcome the schism that has separated Christians of East and West for a millennium.
In particular, Benedict XVI recalled “the courageous decision to remove the memory of the anathemas of 1054,” made by Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in 1965. He also recalled the contribution made to this dialogue by Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Dimitrios I.
“May their names be honored and blessed!” Benedict XVI exclaimed. “May this meeting strengthen our mutual affection and renew our common commitment to persevere on the journey leading to reconciliation and the peace of the Churches.”
The Pope’s arrival at the Phanar was accompanied by the festal ringing of bells and was followed by a doxology in the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George. At the end of the service the ecumenical patriarch welcomed Benedict XVI, who responded accordingly.
Before advancing to the Hall of the Throne, Bartholomew I and Benedict XVI venerated the relics of Sts. Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom, both former archbishops of the ecumenical patriarchate.
Following the welcoming ceremony at the patriarchate, the two religious leaders met privately to discuss issues regarding Orthodox and Roman Catholic relations, including interreligious dialogue, world peace and mutual understanding.
The Pope and the patriarch spoke in Italian. Bartholomew I speaks the language perfectly, as he studied theology in Rome.
On Thursday, Bartholomew I will preside at a Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of St. George on the occasion of the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle, the founder of the Church of Constantinople.
Benedict XVI will be attending personally the Divine Liturgy where an “exchange of the kiss of peace” and the reciting of the Lord’s Prayer in Greek will take place.
After an exchange of addresses and gifts, the two religious leaders will offer a joint blessing, in Greek and Latin, to the numerous faithful present.