PARIS, OCT. 5, 2007 (Zenit.org).- A meeting between Benedict XVI and Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II would be a starting point, not a final goal, said Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard when he welcomed the Russian patriarch to Paris.
The archbishop of Bordeaux and president of the French bishops’ conference made these remarks Wednesday in welcoming Alexy II, Orthodox patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, and his delegation to the see of the episcopal conference.
Cardinal Ricard said: “You know that the hope and desire lives in the heart of many Catholics for a future meeting, at the appropriate time, between Your Holiness and His Holiness Benedict XVI.
“If that occurred, it would not be a point of arrival after a long process of clarifications — even if some points must, in fact, be dealt with beforehand — but rather, a point of departure for a long journey to be taken together in God’s service and in the service of all mankind, loved by God.
“May your trip to France contribute to the promotion of this dynamic of brotherhood. We are ready to work with you. May the Lord bless us all, and give us his light and the strength of his Spirit.”
Before leaving for Paris, in an interview with the French weekly La Vie, Patriarch Alexy II said that “the question of a papal visit to Russia is not part of this trip’s plans. Despite this, the possibility of a meeting with the Pope of Rome has never been refused, even in difficult periods.”
“We have always thought that the meeting between the leaders of the two great Christian churches must be accompanied by a real progress in our relations and not be merely a one-time gesture and a media event,” he added.
In his welcoming speech, Cardinal Ricard underlined the common task of witness shared by Catholics and Orthodox, the “transcendent and sacred dimension of each human person, the importance of solidarity and the universal destination of goods.”
Speaking about Europe, the French cardinal said: “In the recent European Ecumenical Assembly in Sibiu, the Christian churches recalled the responsibilities that Christians have in the construction of Europe.
“We cannot desert this place of construction and at a time of struggle. There is a reason to speak of Europe’s Christian roots, but talking about it only in historical terms or patrimonial terms, referring to the past, is not enough — even though it is important.
“It is important to show through the efforts of all Christians and all churches that these roots, today, are a source of life and can bear much fruit.”