ISTANBUL, Turkey, NOV. 30, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI relaunched in the presence of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I the dialogue on the exercise of the papal ministry, in hopes of pursuing full Catholic-Orthodox unity.
The Pope’s proposal resounded today in the Cathedral of St. George at the Phanar — the ancient Greek neighborhood of Istanbul where the Orthodox patriarchate’s headquarters is located — at the end of the Divine Liturgy on the feast of St. Andrew. The Orthodox patriarch celebrated the Divine Liturgy.
The Holy Father, who prayed the Our Father in Greek, occupied a place of honor without being able to concelebrate, given the millennium-old division between the two Churches.
Bartholomew I of Constantinople said in his homily: “We confess in sorrow that we are not yet able to celebrate the holy sacraments in unity. And we pray that the day will come when this sacramental unity will be realized in its fullness.”
For his part, the Roman Pontiff explained that his “presence here today is meant to renew our commitment to advancing along the road toward the re-establishment — by God’s grace — of full communion between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople.”
“I can assure you,” the Pope continued, “that the Catholic Church is willing to do everything possible to overcome obstacles and to seek, together with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, ever more effective means of pastoral cooperation to this end.”
Benedict XVI acknowledged: “The issue of the universal service of Peter and his Successors has unfortunately given rise to our differences of opinion, which we hope to overcome, thanks also to the theological dialogue which has been recently resumed.”
The plenary session of the Mixed International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church in its entirety was held in Belgrade, Serbia, last Sept. 18-25.
It was a much awaited meeting, as it relaunched the official dialogue which was blocked since the plenary session held in Baltimore, Maryland, in July 2000.
Benedict XVI recalled that in the 1995 encyclical “Ut Unum Sint,” Pope John Paul II “extended an invitation to enter into a fraternal dialogue aimed at identifying ways in which the Petrine ministry might be exercised today, while respecting its nature and essence, so as to ‘accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned.'”
“It is my desire today to recall and renew this invitation,” affirmed Benedict XVI.
For his part, Patriarch Bartholomew I concluded his homily thanking God for Benedict XVI’s presence at the Divine Liturgy.
“Once again,” the Orthodox leader said, “we gratefully greet this presence as a blessing from God, as an expression of brotherly love and honor toward our Church, and as evidence of our common desire to continue — in a spirit of love and faithfulness to the Gospel Truth and the common tradition of our Fathers — the unwavering journey toward the restoration of full communion among our Churches, which constitutes his divine will and command.”
After the Divine Liturgy, the Pope and patriarch went out on the balcony of the Patriarchal Palace to bless the faithful present, in Latin and Greek. Amid applause, the patriarch raised the Pope’s hand, which made the Bishop of Rome smile.
The two Christian representatives then signed a Common Declaration in which they launched an invitation to peace and expressed the joy of feeling that they are brothers, renewing the commitment to attain full communion.