Pope Relaunches Dialogue on Petrine Ministry
Renews Commitment to Seek Full Catholic-Orthodox Unity
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
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
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
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.