Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, made that assessment in an interview with Vatican Radio. The occasion was today's feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, patron of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The patriarchate, said Bishop Farrell, is the Holy See's point of reference in the effort to "continue with the formal theological dialogue, but especially in the work to give value to all the bilateral contacts we have with the Orthodox Churches, which this year have developed rapidly in a very positive sense."
Representatives of the Holy See took a message from John Paul II to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, for the feast. St. Andrew, founder and apostle of the Church in Constantinople, was brother of St. Peter, first Bishop of Rome.
Every year on this occasion the Holy Father sends a delegation to Constantinople -- modern-day Istanbul, Turkey. The patriarch, in turn, sends representatives to Rome on June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
"These patronal feasts allow us to live better the joy of being brothers and of participating in a single communion of intentions, which it is necessary to encourage and continue, so that it appears with greater clarity before the world," the Pope said in his message to Bartholomew I.
The Vatican delegation was headed by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president, of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, along with Bishop Farrell.
"Reciprocal participation in these patronal feasts," the Pope added in his messages, some passages of which were reported on Vatican Radio, "is the most complete expression of our mutual desire to re-create among ourselves a context of love and participation in mutual prayer to nourish and further our desire for full communion."
Bishop Farrell told Vatican Radio that this exchange of delegations between the Holy See and the ecumenical patriarchate "are the symbol of a growing intensification of the desire to find again that unity of the Church that the Lord wanted."
The visit took place at a time of tension, in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in Istanbul.
The Vatican representatives wished to express "the solidarity of the Catholic Church and the guarantee of repeated prayer raised by the Pope for the victims and for all those who live daily in fear," Bishop Farrell explained.
Orthodox and Catholics have been divided since the Eastern schism of the 11th century. Mutual excommunications were lifted in 1964, but the two Churches have yet to find full unity.