.- Setting the stage for what many hope will be a continuation of Pope John Paul II’s dialogue with world religions, Pope Benedict met this morning with members of various Christian Churches and ecclesial communities, as well as of non-Christian religious leaders who had come to Rome for yesterday’s inauguration Mass.
The new Holy Father told delegates of Orthodox Churches, Eastern Orthodox Churches and the ecclesial communities of the West, how "welcome" their presence was both at yesterday Mass in St. Peter's, and during the funeral for Pope John Paul II.
He told them that these acts "went well beyond a simple act of ecclesial courtesy. ... Your participation in the mourning of the Catholic Church for his death showed how true and how great is the common passion for unity."
"In greeting you,” Pope Benedict said, “I would like to thank the Lord, Who has blessed us with His mercy and has infused in us a sincere disposition to make His prayer - 'ut unum sint' - our prayer."
Speaking in French, the Pope stressed the need for true ecumenism, calling today’s meeting "significant as it permits the new bishop of Rome, pastor of the Catholic Church, to repeat to you, with simplicity, 'Duc in altum' (Put out into the deep)."
The Holy Father also wished to "reaffirm the irreversible commitment" undertaken at Vatican II and since, to stay "on the path towards full unity desired by Jesus for His disciples.”
“Your presence, dear brothers in Christ,” he said, “beyond what divides us and throws shadows over our full and visible communion, is a sign of sharing and support for the bishop of Rome, who can count on your support to follow" this path.
He then turned to those he called “dear friends from different religious traditions," and said in English: “I thank you sincerely for your presence at the solemn inauguration of my pontificate.”
The Pope expressed his particular gratitude to members of the Muslim community saying that, “I express my appreciation for the growth of dialogue between Muslims and Christians, both at the local and international level.”
He assured them “that the Church wants to continue building bridges of friendship with the followers of all religions, in order to seek the true good of every person and of society as a whole.”
"The world in which we live”, he added, “is often marked by conflicts, violence and war, but it earnestly longs for peace, peace which is above all a gift from God, peace for which we must pray without ceasing.”
He pointed out however, that, “peace is also a duty to which all peoples must be committed, especially those who profess to belong to religious traditions. Our efforts to come together and foster dialogue are a valuable contribution to building peace on solid foundations."
The 265th Pope concluded the ceremony by inviting all present, "to become together artisans of peace, of a reciprocal commitment to understanding, respect and love."