VATICAN CITY, 27 JUN 2009 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father welcomed a delegation sent to Rome for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul by His Holiness Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople. An ecumenical delegation traditionally visits Rome for the 29 June feast, while a delegation from Rome attends celebrations in Istanbul for the 30 November Feast of St. Andrew, patron of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
This year the delegation was made up of Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, director of the office of the Orthodox Church to the European Union; Bishop Athenagoras of Sinope, assistant to the Metropolitan of Belgium, and Deacon Ioakim Billis of Fanar.
Greeting them the Pope gave thanks to God "for all the fruits and benefits brought by the celebration of the bi-millennium of the birth of St. Paul". Together, he said, we will celebrate "the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the 'protothroni' of the Apostles as they are known in Orthodox tradition, in other words those who hold first place among the Apostles and are called 'masters of ecumenism'".
"With your presence here", the Holy Father went on, "which is a sign of ecclesiastical fraternity, you remind us of our shared commitment to achieve full communion. You already know, but I wish to reaffirm, that the Catholic Church seeks to contribute in every possible way to the re-establishment of full unity, thus responding to the will of Christ for His disciples and recalling Paul's own teaching which tells us that we are called to be 'a single hope'".
In this context the Holy Father spoke of his "confidence in the progress of the activities" of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between Catholic and Orthodox. The commission is due to meet in October "to examine a crucial aspect of relations between East and West: the role of the Bishop of Rome in the communion of the Church during the first millennium".
"Such study", he continued, "is an indispensable step towards gaining a deeper understanding of this question in the current context of the search for full communion". Benedict XVI also pointed out that the commission will be received by the Orthodox Church of Cyprus which he thanked for its "fraternal welcome ... which will facilitate our task and our mutual understanding".
"I wish participants in Catholic-Orthodox dialogue to be aware that my prayers accompany them always and that such dialogue enjoys the support of the Catholic Church", concluded the Holy Father. "It is my heartfelt wish that the fraternal misunderstandings and tensions that arose among Orthodox delegates during recent plenary sessions of the commission be overcome in fraternal love, so this dialogue may more broadly represent Orthodoxy".
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