03/17/2006, 00.00
VATICAN – RUSSIA
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Pope exchanges letters with Alexei II: world needs our shared Christian witness

The messages speak of brotherhood and communion between the two Churches and the need to offer values to a secularized society.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The search for a path towards a shared witness of Catholics and Orthodox in a world that needs to hear voices promoting peace and respect for people and their rights, was the gist of the first exchange of letters between Benedict XVI and Alexei II Patriarch of Moscow and of All the Russias. The two messages underline the need for a "shared witness" and for the growth of a "spirit of communion". Alexei II also referred to problems dividing the two Churches, even if he did so in the hope that they will be overcome.

The exchange took place in February but was made public by the Vatican only today; it started with a letter of congratulations written by Benedict XVI to the Patriarch of Moscow for the latter's birthday and name-day. The message was delivered by Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, together with a gold medal of the pontificate, when he had a meeting with Alexei in Moscow, on 20 March. It was the French Cardinal who received a letter of reply for the Pope from the Orthodox Patriarch, together with a pectoral cross, on 24 February.

"The gestures and words of renewed brotherhood between the Shepherds of the flock of the Lord, indicate how an ever more intense collaboration in truth and charity contributes to increasing the spirit of communion, which must guide the steps of all who are baptized," said Benedict XVI in his message of congratulations for the twofold anniversary. "The contemporary world needs to hear voices which show the way of peace, of respect for all, of condemnation of all violence, of the higher dignity and innate rights of each person."

In his response, the Patriarch of Moscow wrote: "In our time, in which secularization is developing rapidly, Christianity is faced with serious challenges which call for a shared witness. I am convinced that today, one of the main tasks for our Churches, which share a common vision about many current problems of the contemporary world, must be the defence and affirmation within society of Christian values, which mankind has been living by for more than a millennium. I hope this contributes to a swift resolution of problems between the two Churches."

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