Pope John Paul II manifested his desire for Christian unity when he handed over the relics of Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Gregory Nazianzen to the Orthodox Ecumentical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Saint Peter’s Basilica on Saturday.

In his message to the Patriarch, the “first among equals” of the Orthodox Churches, the Pope said that the return of the relics to the See of Constantinople is "a blessed opportunity to purify our wounded memories, to reinforce our path of reconciliation."

Now, continued the Pope’s messge, is the "propitious moment" to pray so that God "will hasten the hour in which we will be able to live together, in the celebration of the holy Eucharist, full communion, and thus contribute in a more effective manner to make the world believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord."

"I will never cease to seek firmly and determinedly this communion among the disciples of Christ,” stated the Pope in his message, “as my desire, in response to the will of the Lord, consists in being servant of communion 'in truth and in love.'"

Following the Holy Father’s message, the relics of the two great Doctors of the Church were brought to the Pope and the Patriarch who were sitting together during the liturgy, and they both blessed them.

Thanking the Pope for this gesture of reconciliation and expressing the great “happiness and joy" which it brings to the Christian community in Turkey and to the See of Constantinople (now Istanbul), Patriarch Bartholomew said that “a sacred act is celebrated today, which repairs an ecclesiastical anomaly and injustice."

"This fraternal gesture of the Church of ancient Rome,” he continued, “confirms that insurmountable problems do not exist in the Church of Christ, when love, justice and peace meet in the sacred 'diaconia' of reconciliation and unity."

The Patriarch concluded by praising the Pope’s handing over of the relics as "a luminous example that must be imitated." 

The relics were transferred to Istanbul after the liturgy on Saturday. The Vatican is retaining a small part of the relics.

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