.- Ecumenical Patriarch and Archbishop of Constantinople Bartholemew I received a message from Pope Benedict XVI for his 70th birthday, which falls on Feb. 29. The Pope included words of thanks, prayer and encouragement for further unity between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
In the letter to Patriarch Bartholomew, released by the Holy See's Press Office, Pope Benedict conveyed his "warm good wishes" to the Archbishop of Constantinople, and thanked God for the abundant blessings bestowed upon him. The Holy Father added that he is praying for strength and grace for the ministry of Bartholomew I.
Benedict XVI closed the message by expressing his " prayerful confidence that the Spirit of God will continue to enlighten and guide our path towards the full communion willed by Christ for all his disciples."
Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, also greeted the Patriarch on the occasion. In his message, he remembered the "friendship, mutual confidence and frankness" that characterize their discussions and are "a great gift and a sign of progress in the relations between our Churches."
Cardinal Kasper expressed his hope that the Patriarch's commitment to an "ever deeper understanding and profitable collaboration between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church," will be untiring, so that they might "offer a common witness to the world of our faith in Our Single Lord Jesus Christ."
The Ecumenical Patriarch and Archbishop of Constantinople was born on the island of Imbros, in Turkey, on Feb. 29, 1940.