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17016Bartholomew: 50 years of "love" and "harmony" between Catholics and Orthodox

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  • Nina Tkachuk Dimas
    Oct 12, 2012

      10/11/2012 13:02


      Bartholomew I: 50 years of "love" and "harmony" between
      Catholics and Orthodox

      The sole representative of Orthodoxy at the ceremony for the
      start of the Year of Faith, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople retraces
      the stages of the search for unity between Catholics and Orthodox, and between
      the Orthodox themselves, favored by the Second Vatican Council. The full speech
      of Bartholomew I during the celebration in St. Peter's

      Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "Love" and "desire for harmony", "dialogue" and
      "mutual respect" are the values ​​witnessed by the presence of
      Bartholomew I at the ceremony that began the Year of the Faith and marked the 50
      years since the Opening of the Second Vatican Council. The Ecumenical Patriarch
      of Constantinople is the sole representative of Orthodoxy to be invited to the
      ceremony. Moreover - as he himself recalled at the end of the Mass celebrated by
      Benedict XVI - the Patriarchate of Constantinople has always been committed to
      ecumenism, which was the mainspring of the Second Vatican Council.

      In his
      speech - which we publish below in full - Bartholomew I retraced the steps that
      led up to the opening of the theological dialogue between Catholics and
      Orthodox. At the same time he points out that the Vatican Council also catalysed
      tensions in the search for unity even among the Orthodox Churches.

      among Christians, that for which Christ prayed before the "Gethsemane
      experience," is a function of the common witness of the "message of salvation
      and healing for our brethren: the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized in world
      created by God". "In the current turmoil of violence, separation, and brokenness
      that is escalating between peoples and nations, may the love and desire for
      harmony we profess here, and the understanding we seek through dialogue and
      mutual respect, serve as a model for our world". Here is the full address by the
      Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople:
      Beloved brother in the Lord, Your Holiness Pope Benedict;
      Brothers and

      As Christ prepared for His Gethsemane experience, He prayed a
      prayer for unity which is recorded in the Gospel of Saint John Chapter 17 verse
      11: ". . . keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be
      one as We are". Through the centuries we have, indeed, been kept in the power
      and love of Christ, and in the proper moment in history the Holy Spirit moved
      upon us and we began the long journey towards the visible unity that Christ
      desires. This has been confirmed in Unitatis Redintegratio §1:

      Everywhere large numbers have felt the impulse of this grace, and among
      our separated brethren also there increases from day to day the movement,
      fostered by the grace of the Holy Spirit, for the restoration of unity among all

      Fifty years ago in this very square, a powerful and pivotal
      celebration captured the heart and mind of the Roman Catholic Church,
      transporting it across the centuries into the contemporary world. This
      transforming milestone, the opening of the Second Vatican Council, was inspired
      by the fundamental reality that the Son and incarnate Logos of God is "...where
      two or three are gathered in his name" (Matt.18.20) and that the Spirit, who
      proceeds from the Father, "...will guide us into the whole truth." (John

      In the 50 years that have intervened, we recall with vividness
      and tenderness, but also with elation and enthusiasm, our personal discussions
      with episcopal members and theological periti during our formative time - then
      as a young student - at the Pontifical Oriental Institute, as well as our
      personal attendance at some special sessions of the Council. We witnessed
      firsthand how the bishops experienced a renewed awareness of the validity - and
      a reinforced sense of the continuity - of the tradition and faith "once for all
      delivered to the saints" (Jude 1.3). It was a period of promise and hope for
      your Church both internally and externally.

      For the Orthodox Church, we
      have observed a time of exchange and expectation. For example, the convocation
      of the first Pan-Orthodox Conferences in Rhodes led to the Pre-Conciliar
      Pan-Orthodox Conferences in preparation for the Great Council of the Orthodox
      Churches. These exchanges will demonstrate the unified witness of the Orthodox
      Church in the modern world. Moreover, it coincided with the "dialogue of love"
      and heralded the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between
      the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church, which was established by our
      venerable predecessors Pope John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch

      Over the last five decades, the achievements of this assembly
      have been diverse as evidenced through the series of important and influential
      constitutions, declarations, and decrees. We have contemplated the renewal of
      the spirit and "return to the sources" through liturgical study, biblical
      research, and patristic scholarship. We have appreciated the struggle toward
      gradual liberation from the limitation of rigid scholasticism to the openness of
      ecumenical encounter, which has led to the mutual rescinding of the
      excommunications of the year 1054, the exchange of greetings, returning of
      relics, entering into important dialogues, and visiting each other in our
      respective Sees.

      Our journey has not always been easy or without pain and
      challenge, for as we know "narrow is the gate and difficult is the way" (Matthew
      7.14). The essential theology and principal themes of the Second Vatican Council
      - the mystery of the Church, the sacredness of the liturgy, and the authority of
      the bishop - are difficult to apply in earnest practice, and constitute a
      life-long and church-wide labor to assimilate. The door, then, must remain open
      for deeper reception, pastoral engagement, and ecclesial interpretation of the
      Second Vatican Council.

      As we move forward together, we offer thanks and
      glory to the living God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - that the same assembly
      of bishops has recognised the importance of reflection and sincere dialogue
      between our "sister churches". We join in the ". . . hope that the barrier
      dividing the Eastern Church and the Western Church will be removed, and that -
      at last - there may be but the one dwelling, firmly established on Christ Jesus,
      the cornerstone, who will make both one" (Unitatis Redintegratio §18).

      Christ as our cornerstone and the tradition we share, we shall be able - or,
      rather, we shall be enabled by the gift and grace of God - to reach a better
      appreciation and fuller expression of the Body of Christ. With our continued
      efforts in accordance with the spirit of the tradition of the early Church, and
      in the light of the Church of the Councils of the first millennium, we will
      experience the visible unity that lies just beyond us today.

      The Church
      always excels in its uniquely prophetic and pastoral dimension, embraces its
      characteristic meekness and spirituality, and serves with humble sensitivity the
      "least of these My brethren" (Matt. 25.40).

      Beloved brother, our presence
      here signifies and seals our commitment to witness together to the Gospel
      message of salvation and healing for the least of our brethren: the poor, the
      oppressed, the forgotten in God's world. Let us begin with prayers for peace and
      healing for our Christian brothers and sisters living in the Middle East. In the
      current turmoil of violence, separation, and brokenness that is escalating
      between peoples and nations, may the love and desire for harmony we profess
      here, and the understanding we seek through dialogue and mutual respect, serve
      as a model for our world. Indeed, may all humanity reach out to 'the other' and
      work together to overcome the suffering of people everywhere, particularly in
      the face of famine, natural disasters, disease, and war that ultimately touches
      all of our lives.

      In light of all that has yet to be accomplished by the
      Church on earth, and with great appreciation for all the progress we have
      shared, we are, therefore, honored to be invited to attend - and humbled to be
      called to address - this solemn and festive commemoration of the Second Vatican
      Council. It is fitting that this occasion also marks for your Church the formal
      inauguration of the "Year of Faith", as it is faith that provides a visible sign
      of the journey we have traveled together along the path of reconciliation and
      visible unity.

      In closing, Your Holiness, Beloved Brother, we
      wholeheartedly congratulate you - together with the blessed multitude assembled
      here today - and we fraternally embrace you on the joyous occasion of this
      anniversary celebration. May God bless you all.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]