Orthodox Patriarch Says Dialogue Is Progressing

Notes That Church Will Also Celebrate Pauline Year

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 30, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople says dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches is going forward, despite "considerable difficulties that exist and the well-known problems."



Patriarch Bartholomew I affirmed this in his homily Sunday at St. Peter's Basilica for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

The Mass formed part of the celebrations for the inauguration of the Pauline Jubilee Year. The Holy Father inaugurated the Pauline year at Saturday's vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls. The jubilee runs through June 29, 2009.

Bartholomew I affirmed that the Orthodox have also declared the jubilee. He said the Church is "planning, among others things, a sacred pilgrimage to some of the monuments of the apostolic activity of the apostle in the East: Ephesus, Perge and other cities in Asia Minor, but also Rhodes and Crete, the places called 'good ports.'

The patriarch stated that the Orthodox "honor and greatly venerate Peter -- he who made his salvific confession of the divinity of Christ, as much as Paul -- the vessel of election, who proclaimed this confession and faith to the ends of the universe in the midst of the most unimaginable difficulties and dangers. […] To strongly emphasize their equal importance, but also their weight in the Church and her regenerative and salvific work through the centuries, the East honors them in an icon in which they either hold a little ship in their hands, which symbolizes the Church, or they embrace and exchange the kiss in Christ.

"It is indeed this kiss that we have come to exchange with you, Your Holiness, emphasizing the ardent desire and love in Christ, things which are closely related to each other."

Bartholomew I then turned his attention to the progress toward unity between the two Churches.

"The theological dialogue between our Churches 'in faith, truth and love,' thanks to divine help, goes forward despite the considerable difficulties that exist and the well-known problems," he said. "We truly desire and fervently pray that these difficulties will be overcome and that the problems will disappear as soon as possible so that we may reach the desired final goal for the glory of God.

"We know well that this is your desire too, as we also are certain that Your Holiness will neglect nothing, personally working, together with your illustrious collaborators, through a perfect smoothing of the way, toward a positive fulfillment of the labors of dialogue, God willing."

The patriarch affirmed that in the context of the Pauline year, the Orthodox will pray for the Pope.

"And now," he concluded, "venerating the sufferings and the cross of Peter and embracing Paul's chains and stigmata, honoring the confession and martyrdom and the venerable death of both for the name of the Lord, which truly leads to life, we glorify the Thrice-Holy God and we supplicate him, so that through the intercession of Sts. Peter and Paul, […] he will, here below, grant us and all his children of the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world 'union of faith and communion in the Spirit' in the 'bond of peace' and there above eternal life and great mercy. Amen.