The Pope's words were heard today by 150 participants in the Interpatriarchal Synod of the three Catholic Byzantine ecclesiastical circumscriptions in Italy: the Lungo and Piana degli Albanesi eparchies, and the exarchal Monastery of Santa Maria di Grottaferrata.
"I encourage you to continue contacts, thanks to a common liturgical tradition, with the Orthodox Churches desirous also of giving glory to the one God and Savior," the Holy Father said.
"May the Almighty Lord, who in the Christmas just lived through revealed his divine tenderness in the luminous incarnation of the Word, allow all believers in Christ to live fully the unity of the same faith," he said.
The 2nd Interpatriarchal Synod is being held in three sessions: the first two took place last October and November. The third is taking place through Friday.
The synod is focusing on "Communion and Proclamation of the Gospel." Its organizers told ZENIT in a statement that the synod hopes to "respond to the urgent need of the pastoral program of new evangelization, which has its center in Jesus Christ, dead and resurrected, for the salvation of every man."
The Italian-Byzantine Monastery of Santa Maria of Grottaferrata, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Rome, is under the Holy See. It was founded in 1004 by St. Nilus, sometimes called "the Younger" or "of Rossano," a half-century before the division of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox.
For 1,000 years this monastery has witnessed with daily prayer to the unity of the Church in its multiple traditions of spirituality and culture. It is a place of meeting and dialogue between the Latin West and the Orthodox East, open to those who wish to live and study Byzantine spirituality.
1940 was the year of the first synod of the two eparchies (equivalent to dioceses) of Eastern-rite Catholics who arrived in the Italian peninsula and its islands in the 15th century, after the Ottoman occupation of Albania, Greece and the Balkans.
"Heirs of a common spiritual heritage, these ecclesial realities of yours are called to witness to the unity of the same faith in different social contexts," the Pope said. "They collaborate from the pastoral point of view with the communities of the Latin tradition and increasingly reinforce their identity, taking advantage of their millennial Byzantine tradition."
John Paul II encouraged Eastern-rite Catholics in Italy to preserve their tradition through "solid formation, … able to respond in an effective manner to the growing challenges of secularization."
In the presence of Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, the Holy Father said that the Holy See will "not cease to give them its support."