The Zenit news agency published the translation of Pope Benedict XVI’s address to the delegation the Ecumenical Patriarchate sent to the Vatican for the celebration of “the solemnity” of Sts. Peter and Paul and the conclusion of the Pauline Year.
The patriarchate’s delegation was led by Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, director of the Office of the Orthodox Church Before the European Union. The other members include Bishop Anthenagoras of Sinope, auxiliary bishop of the Patriarchate of Belgium, and Deacon Ioakim Billis of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Epehesians 1:2).
It is with these words that St. Paul, “apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,” addresses “the saints” who live in Ephesus, “believers in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1). Today, with this proclamation of peace and salvation, I bid you welcome for the patronal feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, with which we conclude the Pauline Year.
Last year, the Ecumenical Patriarch, His Holiness Bartholomew I, wanted to honor us with his presence, to celebrate together this year of prayer, of reflection and the exchange of gestures of communion between Rome and Constantinople. On our part, we have had the joy of sending a delegation to similar celebrations organized by the Ecumenical Patriarch. On the other hand, it could not be otherwise in this year dedicated to St. Paul, who vigorously recommended the “conservation of unity of spirit through the bond of peace,” teaching us that we are “one body and one spirit” (Ephesians 4:3-4).
You are welcome guests, dear brothers, who have been sent by His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch, to whom I likewise send my warm and fraternal greeting in the Lord. Let us give thanks together to the Lord for all the fruits and benefits that the bimillennial celebration of the birth of St. Paul has brought us. We celebrate together the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the “protôthroni” of the Apostles, as they are invoked in the Orthodox liturgical tradition, that is, those who occupy first place among the apostles and are called “the teachers of the ecumene.”
With your presence, which is a sign of ecclesial fraternity, you remind us of our common commitment to the pursuit of full communion. You already know, but again today I have the pleasure of confirming, that the Catholic Church intends to contribute in every possible way to the reestablishment of full communion. This is in response to Christ’s will for his disciples, and recalling Paul’s teaching in which he reminds us that we have been called to “one hope.”
In this respect, we can confidently look forward to a good continuation of the work of the Mixed International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. This commission will meet in October to address a crucial theme for relations between East and West, namely, “the role of the Bishop of Rome in the communion of the Church during the first millennium.”
In effect, the study of this aspect is clearly indispensable for generally getting to the heart of the question in the current context of the pursuit of full communion. This commission, which has already accomplished important work, will be generously received by the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, to whom we express our gratitude in advance, because fraternal hospitality and the climate of prayer that will surround our discussions cannot but facilitate our common work and reciprocal understanding.
I desire that the participants in the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue know that my prayers will accompany them and that this dialogue has the complete support of the Catholic Church. With my whole heart I hope that the misunderstandings and the tensions between the Orthodox delegates during the last plenary sessions of this commission be overcome in fraternal love, in such a way that this dialogue be amply representative of the Orthodox.
Dear brothers, I thank you again for being with us on this day and I pray you to convey my fraternal greeting to the ecumenical patriarch, His Holiness Bartholomew I, the Holy Synod, all the clergy and to the Orthodox faithful. May the joy of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, that we traditionally celebrate on the same day, fill your hearts with confidence and hope!
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]