.- Pope Benedict XVI received today a delegation from Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, who were sent to Rome to celebrate the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, patrons of the Church of Rome. The Holy Father emphasized the close relation of the Roman and Eastern Churches and thanked the Delegates for their visit.
The Holy Father began his message by echoing the greeting of St. Peter in his second letter, "Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord" (2 Pet 1:1-2). “These words,” the Pope said, “call to mind our common faith and the mystery of the salvation we have received, a gift which we must pass on to the men and women of our day.”
The Pontiff then made known his continued desire, “to eliminate all dissonance from the choir of the one Church of Christ,” and unite the two Churches. Benedict pointed out a title given to Peter by the Eastern Church of, protocoryphaeus, which, Benedict said, is, “a title charged with meaning, that of the first in the choir who has the task of maintaining the harmony of the voices, for the glory of God and the service of his people.”
The Holy Father said that he hopes to return the gesture of their visit by taking part in the celebrations on the occasion of the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, in Turkey. Andrew, who was the brother of Saint Peter, is seen as the patron of the Orthodox Churches. “I am certain,” the Pope said, “that this mutual exchange will strengthen our ecclesial fraternity and facilitate collaboration in our common initiatives.”
“May the Lord help us,” Benedict concluded, “to move forward with renewed confidence towards the day when we will be able to celebrate together the Holy Eucharist of the Lord, as a sign of full communion.”