ISTANBUL, Turkey -- In a momentous gesture of filial love and respect for their respective churches, Pope Benedict XVI and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the first Bishop of the entire Orthodox Church worldwide, signed a significant Common Declaration.
The two Prelates recalled with gratitude their predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, as well as Ecumenical Patriarchs Athenagoras and Dimitrios, who lead the path towards the reconciliation (abatement) of the two churches, through their meetings and mutual visits, as well as the lifting of the 11th century anathemas between Rome and Constantinople. They call on (implore) the faithful of both Churches to strengthen their prayers and endeavors towards the unity of the Churches.
The signing of the declaration by the two “peacemakers” and "bridge builders" of Apostolic Christendom in the Throne Room of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is the focal point of Pope Benedict XVI's three-day visit to the primary ecclesiastical center of the Orthodox Christian Church.
The declaration was signed on the occasion of the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle, who traveled across Asia Minor and is the founder of the Christian Church in present-day Istanbul, which later became the first ecclesiastical Throne in the Christian East.
Both hierarchs are noted throughout the world for their efforts to create bridges of truth and love across religious, ethnic, environmental, and political divides. The document is considered a powerful symbol of ecclesiastical solidarity.
The signing of the mutual statement continues a tradition which began in 1964 when Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras met in Jerusalem and later in Istanbul and Rome for the purpose of deepening the renewed relationship between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches.
The three-day meeting between Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Benedict XVI follows a recent meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the two churches last September.
Following the celebration of the Liturgy, the Pope and his entourage sat at the formal luncheon in the headquarters (the Patriarchal House) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
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Thursday, November 30, 2006