Today in the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI received members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox, which is currently holding its fourth plenary meeting. The Pontiff thanked the group for their work and offered particular words of encouragement for those prelates who reside in the Middle East.
“The difficult situation which individuals and Christian communities face in the (Middle East) is a cause of deep concern for us all,” the Holy Father said. “Indeed, Christian minorities find it difficult to survive in the midst of such a volatile geopolitical panorama and are often tempted to emigrate.”
“In these circumstances,” the Pontiff continued, “Christians of all traditions and communities in the Middle East are called to be courageous and steadfast in the power of the Spirit of Christ.”
“May the intercession and example of the many martyrs and saints, who have given courageous witness to Christ in these lands, sustain and strengthen the Christian communities in their faith!”
Addressing the entire group in English, the Holy Father also noted the importance of their meeting, “for our common journey towards the restoration of full communion.”
“The Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches share an ecclesial patrimony stemming from apostolic times and the first centuries of Christianity. This 'heritage of experience' should shape our future 'guiding our common path towards the re-establishment of full communion,’” Pope Benedict said.
"Many people today are still waiting for the truth of the Gospel to be brought to them," the Holy Father reminded. "May their thirst for the Good News strengthen our resolve to work and pray diligently for that unity required for the Church to exercise her mission in the world."
“Thank you for your presence today and for your ongoing commitment to the path of dialogue and unity,” Benedict said. “May the Holy Spirit accompany you in your deliberations.”
Through the gathered delegates, the Pope also sent his fraternal greetings to the th Heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches: His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, His Holiness Patriarch Zakka I Iwas, His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, His Holiness Catholicos Aram I, His Holiness Patriarch Paulus, His Holiness Patriarch Antonios I and His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Didymus I.