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Dear Brothers in Christ,
I am particularly happy to receive you with a warm welcome in the Church of Rome, which is celebrating her Patron Saints Peter and Paul. Your presence at this event is the sign of the profound bond that unites the Church of Constantinople and the Church of Rome in faith, hope and charity. The beautiful custom of an exchange of delegations between our Churches for the respective patronal feasts, which began in 1969, is for me a cause for great joy: our fraternal meeting is an essential part of the journey towards unity. I would like to express my profound gratitude to His Holiness Bartholomew I and to the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, who wished to send, also this year, high representatives. Of His Holiness Bartholomew I, I also recall with fraternal affection his gesture of exquisite attention in my meetings, when he wished to honor me with his presence in the celebration of the beginning of my ministry as Bishop of Rome. I am also extremely grateful to Your Eminence for your participation in that event and I am happy to see you again in this circumstance.
The search for unity among Christians is an urgency from which today, more than ever, we cannot subtract ourselves. In our world, hungry and thirsty for truth, love, hope, peace and unity, it is important for our own witness to be able to, finally, proclaim with one voice the happy news of the Gospel and to celebrate together the Divine Mysteries of our new life in Christ! We know well that unity is primarily a gift from God for which we must pray incessantly for, but to all of us have the task of preparing the conditions, of cultivating the ground of the heart, so that this extraordinary grace will be received.
A fundamental contribution to the search for full communion between Catholics and Orthodox is offered by the Mixed International Commission for Theological Dialogue, co-presided by Your Eminence, Metropolitan Ioannis, and by the Venerable Brother , Cardinal Kurt Koch. I thank you sincerely for your precious and tireless commitment. This Commission has already produced many common texts and is now studying the delicate topic of the theological and ecclesiological relation between primacy and ecclesiastical governing in the life of the Church. It is significant that today we succeed in reflecting together, in truth and in charity, on these topics, beginning with what we have in common, without hiding, however, what still separates us. It is not a question of a mere theoretical exercise, but to know in depth the reciprocal traditions to understand them and, at times, to learn from them. I am referring, for instance, to the reflection of the Catholic Church on the meaning of episcopal collegiality, and to the tradition of, so typical of the Orthodox Churches. I am confident that the effort of common reflection, so complex and laborious, will bear fruits in its time. I am comforted to know that Catholics and Orthodox share the same concept of dialogue, which does not seek a theological minimalism on which to bring about a compromise, but, rather, is based on deeper reflection on the one truth that Christ has given His Church and that we do not cease to understand ever better, moved by the Holy Spirit. Because of this, we must not be afraid of meeting and of true dialogue. It does not distance us from the truth, rather, through an exchange of gifts, it leads us, under the guidance of the Spirit of Truth, to the whole Truth (cf. John 16:13).
Venerable Brothers, I thank you once again for being here with us on the occasion of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. We confidently invoke their intercession and that of the Holy Apostle Andrew, brother of Peter, for our faithful and for the needs of the whole world, above all of the poor, the suffering and all those who are unjustly persecuted because of their faith. I ask you finally to pray for me and to have others pray for me, that the Lord may assist me in my ministry as Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter.