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Relations between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church

5. Let us thank the Lord for the exemplary gestures of reciprocal love, participation and sharing that he has granted us to make; among them, it is only right to recall the Pope’s Visit to the Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios in 1979, when the creation of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and all the Orthodox Churches was announced at the Phanar, a further step to sustain the “dialogue of truth” with the “dialogue of charity”; Patriarch Dimitrios’ visit to Rome in 1987; our meeting in Rome on the feast of Sts Peter and Paul in 1995, when we prayed in St Peter’s, despite the painful separation during the celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy, since we cannot yet drink from the same chalice of the Lord. Then, more recently, there was the meeting at Assisi for the “Day of Prayer for Peace in the World”, and the Common Declaration on Environmental Ethics for the Safeguard of Creation, signed on 10 June 2002 [in the context of the Fourth Symposium on Ecology: The Adriatic Sea: a Sea at Risk - Unity of Purpose].

6. Despite our firm determination to journey on towards full communion, it would have been unrealistic not to expect obstacles of various kinds: doctrinal, first of all, but also the result of conditioning by a troubled history. In addition, the new problems which have emerged from the radical changes that have occurred in political and social structures have not failed to make themselves felt in relations between the Christian Churches. With the return to freedom of Christians in Central and Eastern Europe, old fears have also been reawakened, making dialogue difficult. Nonetheless, St Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians: let all things be done in charity, must always be vibrant within us and between us.

7. The Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and all the Orthodox Churches, created with so much hope, has marked our progress in recent years. It is still a suitable instrument for studying the ecclesiological and historical problems that are at the root of our difficulties, and for identifying hypothetical solutions to them. It is our duty to persevere in the important commitment to reopen the work as soon as possible. In examining the reciprocal initiatives of the offices of Rome and of Constantinople with this in view, we ask the Lord to sustain our determination, and to convince everyone of how essential it is to pursue the “dialogue of truth”.

8. Our meeting in Rome today also enables us to face certain problems and misunderstandings that have recently surfaced. The long experience of the “dialogue of charity” comes to our aid precisely in these circumstances, so that difficulties can be faced serenely without slowing or clouding our progress on the journey we have undertaken towards full communion in Christ.

9. Before a world that is suffering every kind of division and imbalance, today’s encounter is intended as a practical and forceful reminder of the importance for Christians and for the Churches to coexist in peace and harmony, in order to witness in agreement to the message of the Gospel in the most credible and convincing way possible.

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