The Pope expressed that view today in the wake of last week's visit to Rome by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the "first among equals" of the Orthodox Churches, on the occasion of the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul and the 40th anniversary of the encounter between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I.
"We were able to address some problems and misunderstandings that arose recently, offering a concrete sign of how Christians can and must always collaborate, even when there are divisions and conflicts," John Paul II said before praying the midday Angelus.
"It is an eloquent way of proclaiming the Gospel of peace in a world characterized unfortunately by imbalances and violence," he said from the window of his study, addressing thousands gathered below in St. Peter's Square.
"Acknowledging the positive steps taken until now and without forgetting the obstacles that still exist, we reaffirmed the resolve to continue, more than that, to intensify ecumenical dialogue, whether on the level of fraternal relations --dialogue of charity -- or on that of doctrinal comparison -- dialogue of truth," the Holy Father added.
At the end of the visit, John Paul II said that he and Bartholomew I signed a joint declaration "which confirms and relaunches the commitment of Catholics and Orthodox in the service of the great cause of full communion of Christians."
In particular, the Pontiff explained, the patriarchal visit served to remind Catholics and Orthodox that they "are called to work together so that the European continent will not forget its own Christian roots."
"Only in this way will Europe be able to play its full role in the dialogue between civilizations and in the global promotion of justice, solidarity, and the safeguarding of creation," he said.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said "it was the most friendly visit" of the three that Bartholomew I has made to Rome, something the patriarch himself confirmed before bidding farewell to the Eternal City.
The cardinal told Vatican Radio that the past week's meetings have "facilitated" the future of ecumenism, particularly the papal homily of the Mass of Sts. Peter and Paul, which presented the ecumenical journey as "irreversible" and as a "commitment" for anyone who believes in Jesus Christ.