Istanbul (AsiaNews) - The path toward ecumenism is "irreversible" in spite of difficulties in reaching the goal of full communion, said Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch, on the Feast Day of Saint Andrew, patron saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. A delegation representing the Holy See headed by Card Kurt Koch was present; it included Bishop Brian Farrell, Undersecretary Andrea Palmieri and papal nuncio to Ankara, Mgr Antonio Lucibello.
Bartholomew reiterated the importance of Vatican II, which changed the relations between the two Churches. He also mentioned the persistent difficulties on the path towards full unity, but stressed however the irreversibility of the ecumenical journey.
During his recent visit to Vienna, the ecumenical patriarch said the two Churches share the same desire to maintain their own identity and traditions, but also the same wish to celebrate the Eucharist together.
Vatican II was the turning point. During the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of that Council, Bartholomew noted that he was invited by Benedict XVI because of the shared apostolic roots that the Churches of Rome and Constantinople possess.
Unfortunately, the brotherly co-existence between the two Churches was broken when some of their theologians or even leaders wasted their time in digressions, more for their own self-aggrandizement than for the good of the Church. In so doing, they ignored the essence and importance of dialogue, which consists of peaceful co-existence and solidarity as an expression of Christian charity.
We must work for and practice dialogue, he said, trying to focus more on what unites us than on what divides us. For this reason, the ecumenical patriarch praised the contacts between the two Churches and proposed more frequent meetings to exchange ideas between the heads of the Churches, which help solve misunderstandings that go back a thousand years.
Those who want to participate in the dialogue are moved primarily by a desire to remove old obstacles, in order to achieve full communion, Bartholomew said. Sadly, progress is slow. Some are still reluctant. Nevertheless, we must praise the small positive steps taken so far. This way we can put to rest our dissensions.
"It is our joint duty, our brother the pope of Rome and the patriarch of Constantinople, of both our Churches, to remind those who hold material power in our troubled world of the importance of charity and mercy towards those in need. Scorn for those in need could lead to social break-up with unforeseeable consequences for all of us."
This year is ending with possible negative consequences that might spill over into next year. Still, 2013 will be marked by celebrations for the 1,700 years of the Edict of Milan in which Constantine proclaimed freedom of worship. Our Lord announced this freedom to free us and save us but we must preserve and strengthen it.
Finally, the patriarch announced the end of preparatory work for the upcoming pan-Orthodox synod, which should be convened shortly.