Opening Address - Bartholomew I

Opening Address

Patriarch Bartholomew I

Dreaming of the day when all obstacles will be removed

On Tuesday morning, 29 June, in the Vatican's Clementine Hall, the Holy Father received the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, His Holiness Bartholomew I.

Later in the morning, the Patriarch was accompanied to St Peter's Basilica, where he prayed before the Confessio of St Peter and at the tomb of Pope Paul VI to commemorate the embrace of the Pope and Athenagoras I in 1964. The following is a translation of the Patriarch's address to the Holy Father, given in Italian.

Most Holy Brother,

We are visiting you, Your beloved Holiness, with love, joy and emotion, to take part in the celebrations of the patronal Feast of our Sister Church of Rome, over which you preside. We bring you the fraternal embrace of the Church of Constantinople and the warm good wishes of all of us for your good health as desired, and for your renewed strength that we hope God will grant to you. We come with the hope and expectation that in the not too distant future, everyone will spread knowledge of the teaching and person of Our Lord Jesus Christ, so that his priestly prayer, "that they may be one even as we are one", may be fulfilled.

The nature of Christian unity

Actually, the unity of the Churches and their members, their faithful, must not entail their subordination under a single administrative organization, nor even a collaboration analogous to the collaboration of States, nor an ideological alliance or action to achieve a common goal. This unity is the deepest and most total incorporation of our existence in Christ, in whom and through whom we live our union as a spiritual event. Therefore, the dialogues between our Churches — although they are concerned with every Church's different conception of concrete dogmatic and ecclesiastical issues, and although they seek to encourage the common acceptance of the correct conception so as to achieve union in the faith and procedures of the Church — aim ultimately to communicate the hope that derives from the communion with Christ of each one, so as to create unity in a lived experience of him as a Person who recapitulates in himself all things, in the union of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity.

We rejoice to see that you desire and seek this deep ontological unity in Christ. This is why we carry on a sincere dialogue with you, Your Holiness, and with your Church's Delegations, and offer you the experience concerning the saints of the Orthodox Church, listening with interest to all that you explain to us, conversing as brothers with their beloved brothers. There are fluctuations in the dialogue because of the difficulties that have accumulated in the long history of our division. But we are confident that it will be brought to a favourable conclusion that is pleasing to God, and to achieve this we collaborate with you, "looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith" (Heb 12:2), without whom we can do nothing.

'Dreaming with joy of the day'

It is true that certain actions, following in directions that were marked out by previous perceptions

— and already abandoned or that are gradually being abandoned — have caused the suspension or hindrance in the progress of dialogues in the truth that are being carried out between our Churches. But our responsibility and the duty that derives from the priestly prayer of the Lord to contribute to spiritual unity to be lived in practice within his Church do not allow us to lose hope. It is impossible that the Word of the Lord fall into the void, be unrealizable or leave us indifferent in our reaction to it. Therefore, with sincerity and sparing no effort, we are seeking communion between our Churches, given that fundamental divergences do not yet permit communion in the Body, Blood and Spirit of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are dreaming with joy of the day on which all obstacles to full communion will be removed, and pray continuously that this day will not be long in coming. Moreover, in the expectation and contemplation of it, as founded on hope, we fraternally embrace you once again with a holy kiss and we express our delight in this meeting that is a foretaste of the longed for union in the future, which we hope with all our heart to see with our own eyes during the days of our earthly life. So may it be.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
7 July 2004, page 5

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