.- The Holy Father has welcomed a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in light of the celebration of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul on Tuesday. He told them in an audience that he is encouraged that further progress between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches is on the horizon.
The delegation, which was sent by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, is formed by three prominent members of the Orthodox Church, including the Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima. The metropolitan is the co-secretary of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church and vice-moderator of the World Council of Churches Central Committee.
Recognizing that the celebration of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul takes place on the same day in both the Orthodox and Catholic Churches and testifies to the previous communion of the two Churches, Pope Benedict told the representatives at the audience that their presence in the Vatican "brings great gladness to the hearts of us all."
He went on to thank the Lord for the relations between the two sides, which he pointed out are characterized by mutual trust, esteem and fraternity. This cordial atmosphere, the Pope said, is proved by the fact that so many encounters have taken place between the two Churches recently.
"All this gives grounds for hope that Catholic-Orthodox dialogue will also continue to make significant progress," he said.
Referring to discussions of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue on the "Role of the Bishop of Rome in the Communion of the Church in the First Millenium," he said that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and the Holy Synod of Constantinople's interest in dialogue is an "encouraging sign." He also mentioned that he will be “very pleased" to welcome Bartholomew I's delegation to October's Special Assembly for Middle Eastern Bishops.
The delegation was accompanied by the secretary and sub-secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity to First Vespers on Monday evening at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-walls.