At the end of their meeting yesterday afternoon, Pope John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I signed a Common Declaration "witnessing to the firm will to continue on the path towards full communion between us in Christ."
The Declaration recalls that the encounters in recent days in the Vatican marked the 40th anniversary of the embrace between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem in January 1964 which "visibly expressed a hope present in the hearts of everyone," that "all may be one" as Christ desired.
“Unity and Peace! The hope kindled by that historical meeting has illuminated the path of these last decades,” says the statement.
It adds that although “the Christian world for centuries has suffered the drama of separation,” there have been signs of progress, such as reciprocal meetings in Fanar and Rome between John Paul II and the ecumenical patriarchs and the establishment in 1979 of the International Mixed Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church as a whole.
“It is our duty to continue in the decisive commitment to reactivate work as soon as possible,” said the statement, refering to the standstill in the work of the Mixed Comission.
The Declaration affirms that “Notwithstanding our firm desire to continue on the path towards full communion, it would be unrealistic not to realize there are obstacles of various natures: doctrinal above all, but also arising from a difficult history.”
“In addition,” it continues, “new problems have arisen from the profound changes that have occurred in the European socio-political context have not been without consequences in the relations between the Christian Churches. With the return to freedom of Christians in central and eastern Europe fears have been awakened, making dialogue difficult.”
“In the particular context of Europe, the path towards higher forms of integration and enlargement towards the East of the continent, we give thanks to the Lord for this positive development and express the hope that in this new situation collaboration between Catholics and Orthodox will grow.”
The statement closes with a list of the task that lay ahead: “Many are the challenges we must face together in order to contribute to the good of society: healing with love the scourge of terrorism; infusing a hope of peace;
contributing to rectifying so many painful conflicts; restoring in Europe the awareness of its Christian roots; building a true dialogue with Islam, because indifference and reciprocal ignorance can only lead to distrust and even hatred;
nourishing the awareness of the sacredness of human life; working so that science does not deny the divine spark that every man receives with the gift of life;
collaborating so that our earth is not disfigured and creation can preserve the beauty that God has given it;
but above all, announcing with renewed vigor the Gospel message, showing modern man how the Gospel helps him to renew himself and to build a more human world.”