Respect and love are essential in the work of ecumenical dialogue, the Pope observed at a gathering of Orthodox leaders in Rome for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. Each year the Patriarch sends a delegation to Rome for June 29th and the Pope reciprocates by sending a delegation to Constantinople for the feast of Saint Andrew on November 30th to share in prayer, dialogue and fraternity. Watch the video clip.
A hallmark of Pope Benedict's petrine ministry is ecumenical relations with other Christians, most particularly with the Orthodox churches. Yesterday he said:
"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."
On a related note, I can't help but draw our attention to one of the ongoing works in the ecumenical movement today is the superb work of Prior Enzo Bianchi of the Monastery of Bose (in Italy). His monastery has sponsored a creative renewal in religious life for men and women, a vibrant program for the intellect, an awareness of the arts, and real fraternity. Bose is sponsoring the 17th International Ecumenical Conference on Orthodox Spirituality this coming September 2009. The program is exciting; the theme is the spiritual struggle looking keenly on the relation of spiritual struggle with Christian unity in the contemporary world.