.- Pope Benedict XVI has urged Catholic and Orthodox Christians to work together to defend human life and promote the traditional family.
“The common engagement of Christians, including many Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians, makes a valuable contribution to building up a society equipped for the future, in which the human person is given the respect which is his due,” said the Pope at a meeting with Orthodox leaders in the German city of Freiburg Sept. 24.
At the Archdiocese of Freiburg’s seminary, the Pope highlighted areas where co-operation is particularly needed in order to reverse “the present climate, in which many would like, as it were, to ‘liberate’ public life from God.”
In the pro-life struggle both Catholic and Orthodox can “speak up jointly for the protection of human life from conception to natural death.” They can also work together to promote “the value of marriage and the family,” particularly when defending “the integrity and the uniqueness of marriage between one man and one woman.”
There are an estimated 1.6 million Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians in Germany today.
Among Christian Churches and communities, the Orthodox are “theologically closest” to the Catholic Church because they both have the same basic structure “inherited from the ancient Church,” the Pope said. He hoped “that the day is not too far away when we may once again celebrate the Eucharist together.”
Pope Benedict explained that over the years he had “come to know and love Orthodoxy more and more” through personal friendships with Orthodox leaders since his days as the Archbishop of Munich and Freising.
However, he added, work is still required to “clarify theological differences” whose resolution is “indispensable for restoration of the full unity that we hope and pray for.”
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, President of the German Bishops’ Conference, hailed Saturday’s meeting as “another ecumenical high point.” He said the Catholic Church was now “fully aware of all that it shares with the Orthodox and Oriental Churches in matters of faith and ethics.”
Following his meeting with Orthodox leaders Pope Benedict then spent some time with about 60 seminarians for the Archdiocese of Freiburg. They gathered together in the chapel for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament before adjourning for a photo opportunity. This was followed by a brief, informal talk by the Pope in which he spoke about the importance of Sacred Scripture and the relationship between faith and reason.
Freiburg in southwest Germany is the third leg in the Pope Benedict’s state visit to his homeland. Unlike his two previous destinations, Berlin and Erfurt, the city of Freiburg is overwhelmingly Catholic. The Pope will return to Rome Sunday evening.