Entering a dialogue of love and truth
On the occasion of the Feast of St Andrew, 30 November, the Holy
Father sent a Delegation to Istanbul, Turkey, led by Cardinal Walter
Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian
Unity. During an Ecumenical Celebration held in the Cathedral of Saint
George, the Cardinal delivered the following discourse, addressed to the
Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I.
I have had over the years the great honour of conveying to you,
together with this greeting of the apostle Paul, a Message from the Holy
This year, the Holy Father's Message is above all the very relics of
St John Chrysostom and St Gregory the Theologian, which were solemnly
delivered to Your Holiness three days ago in Rome. These are the relics
of your predecessors on the venerable throne of Constantinople, the
relics of two Fathers of the Church whom we share and who are highly
respected and venerated both in the East and in the West.
Such a Message is the sign and expression of the increasing communion
between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople over the
After the historical encounter, 40 years ago, on the Mount of Olives
in the Holy City of Jerusalem between Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope
Paul VI, a new phase in relations between the Church of Rome and the
Church of Constantinople began. It followed the "night of division"
(Patriarch Athenagoras), of "silence" and "waiting" (Pope Paul VI, cf.
Tomo Agapis, 110 ff.; 120 ff.). We have entered a dialogue of
love and truth.
Your Holiness, during your visit to Pope John Paul II on the Feast of
the Apostles Peter and Paul you have yourself recognized this encounter
as a fundamental milestone.
'Communion with the holy and communion of the holy'
The last 40 years, although not free from tensions, have always been
characterized by our genuine and shared will to advance our journey
towards full communion. With God's help, important results have been
achieved in many personal contacts and through several dialogues. What
we celebrate today is the expression and seal of this growing communion
in the Holy Spirit.
However, Your Holiness, the words I have just pronounced are not
sufficient to express the full depth and meaning of the events which we
celebrated in St Peter's Basilica in Rome a few days ago, events which
we continue to celebrate today here in the Cathedral of St George.
These relics are not a simple gift or a sign of merely human
friendship. They are the relics of two highly venerated witnesses and
teachers of our common faith of the first millennium, a faith to which
the East and West remained faithful in the second millennium, and to
which we are called by our common Lord Jesus Christ to bear witness
together in the third millennium.
What unites us is therefore more than human communion; it is a
communion in the faith which John Chrysostom and Gregory the Theologian
confessed and courageously proclaimed, and for which they fought and
suffered; it is a communion in faith in Jesus Christ, true God and true
man, and in the confession of the Holy Trinity.
These relics are a sign and testimony of a shared heritage and task,
of our duty to proclaim together to all peoples the message of salvation
in Jesus Christ (cf. Mt 28:19 ff.).
The significance of this Message, however, is still far deeper than
what I have managed to express so far.
These are not dead bones; these are rather the mortal remains of
Saints who now live, according to our common faith, in the glory of the
Thus, they are an epiphany, that is, an actualization of the new life
in Jesus Christ to which we are called and which we already share in the
celebration of the holy sacraments.
Through the veneration of these relics we enter into contact with the
heavenly reality. Our common veneration of these relics is
communicatio in sacris, 'communion with the holy and communion of
the holy' (koinwnia tou agiou kai koinwnia twn agiwn).
The celebrations in Rome last Saturday and here today in the Phanar
express the koinwnia tou pneumatoV which the
Apostle Paul refers.
The Second Vatican Council saw this koinwnia tou
pneumatoV especially in the celebration of the Eucharist. The
Council speaks of the Eucharist as the source of the life of the Church
and as a pledge of the future glory, whereby we will partake in the
divine nature (qeiaV koinwnoi fusewV;
cf. II Pt 1:4).
The Council cites St John Chrysostom (In Ioannem Homilia,
XLVI): "Hence, through the celebration of the Eucharist of the Lord in
each of these Churches, the Church of God is built up and grows in
stature" (Unitatis Redintegratio, n. 15).
All Churches of the East and of the West which celebrate the
Eucharist should therefore consider themselves as Sister Churches (cf.
Paul VI, Breve "Anno Ineunte" of 25 July 1967, in: Tomo Agapis,
Christians and Orthodox united through the one baptism
The communion which is expressed through these relics is for us a
source of joy and gratitude to God, the giver of all perfect gifts (cf.
Jas 1:17). It is God's Holy Spirit who has given us this bond of
communion and who has sustained us despite all misunderstandings,
divisions and conflicts, for which we have to ask God and one another
for forgiveness. We could say with the Apostle Paul:
Eucaristw tw qeou mou pantote peri umwn epi th cariti tou qeou th
doqeish umin en Cristw Ihsou (cf. II Cor 1:4).
We are aware that this koinwnia is not yet
full communion. Thus, while we give thanks to the Lord, we should at the
same time strengthen our will to further our journey towards full
Suspicion and misrepresentation between Orthodox and Catholic
Christians should therefore be overcome; everywhere Orthodox and
Catholics should recognize each other as Christians who, through the one
baptism, are part of the one Body of Christ (cf. I Cor 12-13; Gal 3:27
ff.); everywhere it should be possible to say together
pathr umwn and to pray together the Lord's
Finally, we should resume
the international theological dialogue, which Your Holiness has
sustained from the very beginning.
It is the sincere desire of many Christians
and especially of the Holy Father
that this celebration may encourage us to deepen our common
understanding in many concrete questions, with the help of God and
through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God (QeotokoV),
and of the Holy Fathers of the Church whose relics we venerate.
It should be particularly compelling that these two Saints were two
great promoters of peace (eirhnopoioi) (cf.
St John Chrysostom admonishes us that our common liturgical
expression, "Peace be with you", must not remain a mere formal greeting
(Commentary on the Letter of the Colossians, Homily VIII,
4; cf. Commentary on Matthew, Homily XXXII, 6).
Through division, the 'Body of Christ' is torn apart
In the year 364, when peace was established again after a conflict in
the Church of Nazianzus, St Gregory stated with sorrow that, through
division, the Body of Christ had been torn apart (cf. Oratio
VI, 1). He describes the absurdity of such divisions: "We, who love
Christ so much, have divided Christ. For the sake of truth, we have lied
to one another..., for the sake of peace, we have made war..." (ibid.,
3). He adds that in doing so, we have become the laughingstock of
unbelievers and the object of contempt of the nations.
Then he says with gratitude to God what we hopefully will be able to say
soon: "You allowed us to hate the hatred and lead us to peace. You work
through opposites. You divided us so that we may long for one another" (ibid.,
He concludes: "We all want to stay together in one spirit, fighting
in harmony for the faith of the Gospel... conserving the magnificent
tradition which we have inherited from our Fathers. In adoration we
prostrate ourselves before the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
adoring the Son in the Spirit. We are baptised into them" (ibid.,
These words of the great witnesses and common teachers in the faith
admonish us to seek peace, and at the same time they encourage us. Such
a peace is a gift of the Spirit of God which is promised to us securely
by Jesus Christ.
Therefore, we pray: "The peace and the communion of the Holy Spirit
be with you; Eirhnh kai h koinwnia tou agiou
pneumatoV meta pantwn hmwn".