.- Following their private meeting in the Vatican this morning, Pope Benedict XVI and His Beatitude Christodoulos, archbishop of Athens and of all Greece, signed a Joint Declaration in the presence of members of the archbishop's Greek delegation and of Catholic representatives.
The statement begins, "We, Benedict XVI, Pope and Bishop of Rome, and Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens and of all Greece, in this sacred place of Rome...wish to live ever more intensely our mission to bear apostolic witness, to transmit the faith, ... and to announce the Good News of the birth of the Lord. ... It is also our joint responsibility to overcome, in love and truth, the multiple difficulties and painful experiences of the past."
"Our meeting in charity makes us more aware of our joint task: together to follow the arduous path of dialogue in truth in order to re-establish full communion of faith. ... Thus we obey a divine mandate ... and continue our commitment, ... following the example of the Apostles and demonstrating mutual love and a spirit of reconciliation."
The two leaders say they recognize the steps made in dialogue since the close of the Second Vatican Council and write that they, “hope that bilateral theological dialogue will take advantage of these positive elements in order to formulate propositions acceptable to both sides, in a spirit of reconciliation."
"Together we affirm the need to persevere on the road of constructive theological dialogue,” they continue, “because, despite the difficulties, this is one of the essential ways we have to re-establish the longed-for unity, ... and to reinforce the credibility of the Christian message in a period of enormous social upheaval and of great spiritual searching by many of our contemporaries, who are disquieted by growing globalization which at times even threatens the lives of human beings and their relationship with God and the world."
"We solemnly renew our desire to announce the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, especially to new generations,” the two say in their statement. “This is very important in our societies where many schools of thought distance people from God and contribute nothing to the meaning of life."
"We believe that religions have a role to play to ensure the triumph of peace in the world, and that they must in no way be the focus for intolerance and violence,” the statement continues. “As Christian religious leaders, we exhort all religious leaders to maintain and reinforce inter-religious dialogue, and to work to create a society of peace and fraternity among individuals and peoples. This is one of the missions of religion."
The statement says that while the Pope and the Archbishop recognize the tremendous progress of science, they are concerned by "experiments on human beings which do not respect the dignity or integrity of the person at all stages of existence, from conception to natural death." The statement also calls for "more effective protection" of "the fundamental rights of human beings, founded on the dignity of man created in God's image."
"We trust in a fruitful collaboration," they continue, "to ensure that our contemporaries may rediscover the Christian roots of the European continent." This, they write, "will help them to experience and promote fundamental human and spiritual values for the good of people and of society itself."
At the end of their declaration, the Holy Father and the Archbishop of Athens and of all Greece call upon the Lord "to grant all mankind the gift of peace, in the charity and unity of the human family."