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It is with great joy that the III. Forum of Dialogue between the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences of Roman Catholic Church (CCEE) and the Orthodox Churches in Europe is taking place these days in Lisbon, this unique and lovely historical city and capital of Portugal, where myriads of saints and martyrs confessed and expressed the Christian Faith and Witness of the undivided Church.
We gathered, Catholics and Orthodox, coming from various destinations of this old continent of Europe, under the gracious auspices of His Eminence, Cardinal José da Cruz Policarpo, Patriarch of Lisbon.
I have the particular honour and joy to convey to all of your Eminences, Excellencies, Graces, beloved Fathers and brothers in Christ, the paternal greetings and prayers of His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, wishing a successful and constructive meeting with positive outcomes for the benefit of our Churches and for all other Christians living in this continent.
The theme of this forum, particularly nowadays, is very crucial and touches all peoples' hearts and lives: The economic crisis and poverty: challenges for Europe today. Today, the present economic crisis is an unprecedented reality in the history of this continent, where many countries and societies are facing the tragic consequences of a financial and social poverty. Millions of peoples lose their jobs, unemployment is rapidly increasing, youth loses even their hopes and are dispersed looking towards an ambiguous and uncertain future. Many are making appeals and try to find refuge in our Churches, asking for help, moral assistance and spiritual encouragement to overcome difficulties. Prayer, faith and hope are the only "spiritual instruments" that we can offer as Churches to those in need, to those struggling to survive and striving for a better future, with dignity and respect to the sacredness and uniqueness of humankind.
The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as the first in rank spiritual leader among the other primates of the Orthodox communion, gives a significant attention to any "dialogue" held between the Christian Churches and in particular to the International Roman Catholic-Orthodox Theological dialogue, as well to this European Forum which with God's blessing has its third gathering.
Beloved brothers and sisters, the unity that we all seek is a gift from above, which we must persistently pursue as well as patiently; it is not something that depends solely on us, but above all on God’s judgment and kairos. Nevertheless, this sacred gift of unity is something that also demands of us radical conversion and re-orientation so that we may humbly return to our common roots in the Apostolic Church and the communion of saints, but also that we may entrust ourselves and submit to God’s heavenly kingdom and authority.
Let us, then, together renew our commitment to dialogue, collaboration and unity as a road to reflection and renewal. And let our deliberation be a prayerful offering to God in our sincere desire that we “may be one” (John 17.21) in response to our Lord’s command and will.