VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says the journey toward union with the Orthodox must continue despite those who are blocking the Holy Spirit by being “bound to the remembrance of historical differences.”
The Pope said this in a message sent to Bartholomew I, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, for today’s Feast of St. Andrew. St. Andrew, brother of St. Peter, is the protector of the ecumenical patriarchate.
The Holy Father’s message was delivered by a delegation headed by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
The Pontiff said the memory of the martyrs compels Christians to bear witness to their faith, which he observed is “an urgency […] especially in our own day, in which Christianity is faced with increasingly complex challenges.”
This witness, he added, “will surely be all the more credible if all believers in Christ are ‘of one heart and soul.'”
The Bishop of Rome noted how the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have been committed to “the path towards the re-establishment of full communion.”
“[A]lthough we have not yet reached our goal,” he said, “many steps have been taken that have enabled us to deepen the bonds between us.”
He stated that this “growing friendship and mutual respect, and our willingness to encounter one another and to recognize one another as brothers in Christ, should not be hindered by those who remain bound to the remembrance of historical differences, which impedes their openness to the Holy Spirit who guides the Church and is able to transform all human failings into opportunities for good.”
Benedict XVI noted the efforts of the Orthodox-Catholic joint commission, which is trying to work through the theological differences blocking the path to unity.
He noted that the group had its 11th plenary session last month in Cyprus.
“The theme of the plenary session, ‘The Role of the Bishop of Rome in the Communion of the Church in the First Millennium,’ is certainly complex,” the Pontiff acknowledged, “and will require extensive study and patient dialogue if we are to aspire to a shared integration of the traditions of East and West.”
He mentioned elements of the Catholic understanding of the topic, saying that the Church sees the Petrine ministry as “a gift of the Lord to his Church.”
Citing Sts. Ignatius of Antioch and Gregory the Great, he said: “This ministry should not be interpreted in the perspective of power, but within an ecclesiology of communion, as a service to unity in truth and charity. The Bishop of the Church of Rome, which presides in charity […] is understood to be the Servus Servorum Dei. […] Thus, […] it is a question of seeking together, inspired by the model of the first millennium, the forms in which the ministry of the Bishop of Rome may accomplish a service of love recognized by one and all.”
The Holy Father suggested that as the journey toward full communion continues, the Churches “should already offer common witness by working together in the service of humanity, especially in defending the dignity of the human person, in affirming fundamental ethical values, in promoting justice and peace, and in responding to the suffering that continues to afflict our world, particularly hunger, poverty, illiteracy, and the inequitable distribution of resources.”
The safeguarding of creation is another common task, he observed, and he assured his appreciation of the initiatives “supported and encouraged” by the patriarch.
In concluding, the Pope assured his prayer that “the Triune God may bestow abundant blessings of grace and light on your lofty ministry for the good of the Church.”
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