Full and visible unity among all of Christ’s disciples is “particularly urgent in our time”, and it calls for Christians to grow deeper in their spirituality and in their mutual love for each other, said Pope Benedict XVI Sunday in a message to a meeting of Orthodox and Catholic scholars in Assisi, Italy.
The ninth Inter-Christian Symposium opened Sept. 4 and will run until tomorrow. The theme is "The Eucharist in the eastern and western traditions, with particular reference to ecumenical dialogue."
Archbishop Yannis Spiteris OFM Cap, of Corfu, Greece, introduced the theme, and 12 scholars—six Orthodox and six Catholic—were to expound on it over the next few days.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, read the Pope’s message Sunday at the start of the four-day event.
"The symposium represents a joyful opportunity for fraternal exchange, in which important themes from the heritage of shared faith may be reflected upon and given profound consideration,” the Pope wrote.
This year’s theme "is highly significant for the life of Christians and for the achievement of full communion among all the disciples of Christ,” he continued.
The Pope appealed to all Christians to “intensify prayer, study and dialogue with the aim of resolving the differences that still remain.”
"Achieving the full communion of Christians must be the objective of all those who profess faith in the Church,” said the Pope, whether in daily Christian life or in theological research.
The inter-Christian symposia began in 1992. Since then, it has been held on alternate years in Greece and in Italy.
Pope Benedict XVI has made Christian unity a priority of his pontificate. He has made several appeals for unity since his inauguration in April, including on his first foreign trip to Cologne, Germany, Aug. 18-21, where he met with religious leaders.
The Catholic and Orthodox churches split in 1054 over several questions, including the issue of the primacy of the Pope. According to a report by the Associated Press, theological dialogue was interrupted four years ago, but in June both sides announced that talks would resume.
The symposium was organized by the Franciscan Institute of Spirituality at the Pontifical Antonianum University and the theology department of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece.