The Holy Father received the delegation Saturday. Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, director of the Office of the Orthodox Church Before the European Union, is leading the delegation. Other members include Bishop Anthenagoras of Sinope, auxiliary bishop of the Patriarchate of Belgium, and Deacon Ioakim Billis of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The visit reciprocates the habitual exchange of delegations for the respective patronal feasts in which the patriarch of Constantinople sends a delegation to Rome on June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and St. Paul, and the Pope sends a delegation to Istanbul, Turkey, on Nov. 30, the feast of St. Andrew.
In November 2006, Benedict XVI led the delegation himself, and last June Bartholomew I led the Orthodox delegation to Rome, which coincided with the opening of the Pauline Jubilee Year.
The delegation participated in vespers today, presided over by Benedict XVI at St. Paul Outside the Walls, which also marked the end of the Year of St. Paul.
The pontiff welcomed the delegation's presence in Rome for the closing of the Pauline Year. "It could not be otherwise," he said, citing St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians that teaches "we are 'one body and one spirit.'"
The Pope said the "sign of ecclesial fraternity" led him to confirm "that the Catholic Church intends to contribute in every possible way to the reestablishment of full communion. This is in response to Christ's will for his disciples, and recalling Paul's teaching in which he reminds us that we have been called to 'one hope.'"
Benedict XVI said he looked forward to the progress of the Mixed International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, which will meet next in October to discuss "the role of the Bishop of Rome in the communion of the Church during the first millennium."
"In effect," he explained, "the study of this aspect is clearly indispensable for generally getting to the heart of the question in the current context of the pursuit of full communion."
"With my whole heart I hope that the misunderstandings and the tensions between the Orthodox delegates during the last plenary sessions of this commission be overcome in fraternal love, in such a way that this dialogue be amply representative of the Orthodox," the Pontiff added.
On Monday, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the patriarch's delegation will participate in the Mass celebrated by the Pope at the Vatican, during which the Holy Father will bestow the pallium on the 34 archbishops who have been named this year.
Also on the agenda are meetings with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
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