VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2004 (Zenit.org).- When bidding farewell to Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I at the end of his four-day visit to Rome, John Paul II said that “signs of communion” are needed between Catholics and Orthodox.
“Together let us give thanks to God” for having been able “to show the faithful a clear sign of our fraternity and to confirm the proposal to make decisive progress toward full unity between Catholics and Orthodox,” the Pope explained during the farewell meeting today.
Bartholomew I of Constantinople came here to participate in the celebration of the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul on June 29, day of the Bishop of Rome, and to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the historic embrace in Jerusalem between their predecessors, Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I and Pope Paul VI.
The visit served to manifest the two religious leaders’ commitment to relaunch the work of the International Mixed Committee for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. The panel, set up in 1979, has been in crisis in recent years.
On Thursday, John Paul II and Bartholomew I signed a joint declaration, insisting that “the Churches live in peace and harmony among themselves to witness in concord to the Gospel message in a more credible and convincing way.
“There is a great need for these signs of communion, as well as for the words that accompany them and explain them which we have written in the joint declaration,” the Pope said.
The patriarch’s visit culminated with the Pope’s granting him, for the liturgical use of the Greek-Catholic community in Rome, the restored Church of St. Theodore on the Palatine Hill.
“This will allow the faithful of the Greek-Orthodox Archdiocese in Italy to have a significant and continuing presence close to the tomb of the Apostle Peter,” John Paul II told his guest.
“All of this, we know, is a gift from God. And it is beautiful that brothers and sisters live together in this common recognition of the One who is the ‘Father of the lights,’ from whom comes ‘every good endowment and every perfect gift,'” he said, quoting from the Letter of James.
The ecumenical patriarch said on Vatican Radio that this visit to Rome, his third, has been “the most moving, most human, and most fraternal meeting” that he has had with this Pope. “It has been more of a spiritual than formal nature,” he said.
The patriarch acknowledged that “the difficulties” between Catholics and Orthodox still exist, “but, without a doubt, on both sides there is the good will to go forward, to continue with the dialogue.”