Pope John Paul II welcomed His Holiness Bartholomew I, the Patriarch of Constantinople, this morning to mark the 40th anniversary of the historic embrace of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Atenagora in Jerusalem in January 1964.
“We give thanks to God as we commemorate together the blessed encounter that took place 40 years ago between my venerable predecessor, Pope Paul VI, and the venerable Patriarch Atenagora,” said the Pope.
The Pope called that encounter “providential …for the life of the Church, both courageous and joyous at the same time!”
“Inspired by their trust and love for God, our enlightened predecessors knew how to move beyond prejudice and secular misunderstandings, and offered an admirable example as pastors and guides of the People of God,” said the Pope.
“In rediscovering their brotherhood, they experienced a sentiment of profound joy, which inspired them to resume with trust, the relations between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople,” he said.
“In these past 40 years, our Churches in their relations, have lived important moments, which have favored the spirit of reciprocal reconciliation,” he continued.
"In particular, we cannot forget what happened in the month of April 1204," the Pope said, referring to the sacking of Constantinople by Crusaders that contributed to the collapse of the Byzantine Empire about three centuries later.
"How can't we not share, at a distance of eight centuries, the anger and the pain," he added.
The Pontiff expressed his wishes that the celebration of the meeting between Pope Paul Vi and Patriarch "may favor a leap forward in the dialogue and the reparation of mutual brotherly relationship."
During the Angelus, Pope John Paul explained the relevance of his meeting with the Patriarch. He said the embrace, which took place 40 years ago between their predecessors and which they were commemorating today, "has become a symbol of the auspicious reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, and professes hope in the journey toward the full unity of all Christians.”
Patriach Bartholomew I also participated at the mass presided over by the Pope in St. Peter’s Square. “Together we will give the homily and proclaim our common profession of faith,” said the Pope.