Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "A deep and real communion, though still imperfect, which is based not on human reasons of courtesy or convenience, but on our common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, whose gospel of salvation is achieved through the preaching and testimony of the apostles, sealed by the blood of martyrdom. With this solid foundation, we can all move forward with confidence on the path that leads to the restoration of full communion." This is what Benedict XVI said in a message sent today to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, on the feast of St. Andrew, patron of the Patriarchate, which is celebrated today in Istanbul (Turkey).
"The exchange of delegations between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople," the pope writes, "which takes place every year on the occasion of the patron saints St. Andrew, in Phanar (Istanbul), and Sts. Peter and Paul in Rome reflects concretely the communion and closeness that unites us." The pope says that only "with this solid foundation, can we all move forward with confidence on the path that leads to the restoration of full communion. On this road ... we have made a lot of progress, for which we are very grateful. Although the way ahead may seem long and difficult, the desire to continue in this direction remains unchanged, comforted by the prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Father, 'that they may be one in us: so that the world may believe.' "
In his message, the pope recalled the Patriarch's visit to St. Peter's during the celebration of the 50 year anniversary of Vatican Council II: "I still have strong memories of your visit to Rome on this occasion, during which we had the opportunity to renew the bonds of our sincere and genuine friendship. This sincere friendship between us is born from a great vision of the responsibilities to which we are called as Christians and pastors of the flock that God has entrusted to us, it is the reason for the great hope that the collaboration may grow ever greater in the urgent task with renewed vigor to the testimony of the Gospel message to the contemporary world."
The pope also thanked the Ecumenical Patriarchate for sending a delegate to the assembly of the Synod of Bishops, on the theme: "The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian faith." According to the Pope both Churches, although divided, are united by a common mission to witness to the message of Jesus Christ to men.
In conclusion, Benedict XVI recalled "the Divine Liturgy in honor of St. Andrew, patron saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate", inviting us to pray "for peace in the world, for the welfare of the holy Churches of God and the union of all." "With all the Catholic brothers and sisters," he added, "I join you in your prayer. Aware that the communion to which we aspire is a gift of God."