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Relations between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church

The Vatican, December 14, 2006

1. We, Benedict XVI, Pope and Bishop of Rome, and Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, in this sacred place of Rome, renowned for the preaching of the Gospel and the martyrdom of the Apostles Peter and Paul, desire to live ever more intensely our mission to offer an apostolic witness, to pass on the faith to those both near and far and to proclaim to them the Good News of the Saviour’s birth, which we will both be celebrating shortly. It is also our common responsibility to overcome the many problems and painful experiences of the past in love and truth, for the glory of God, the Blessed Trinity, and of his Holy Church.

2. Our meeting in charity makes us ever more conscious of our common task: to travel together along the arduous route of a dialogue in truth with a view to re-establishing the full communion of faith in the bond of love. Thus, we will be obeying the divine commandment and will put into practice the prayer of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In addition, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, who accompanies Christ’s Church and never abandons her, we will persevere in our commitment on this path, following the example of the Apostles and demonstrating our mutual love and spirit of reconciliation.

3. With regard to our relations, we recognize the important steps that have been taken in the dialogue of charity and by the decisions of the Second Vatican Council. Furthermore, we hope that the bilateral theological dialogue will carry forward these positive elements to formulate proposals accepted by both parties in a spirit of reconciliation, after the example of our illustrious Father of the Church, Saint Basil the Great, who, in a period of manifold divisions in the Ecclesial Body, declared his conviction “that by extended communication and mutual experience without strife, if anything more requires to be added by way of explanation, the Lord, who works all things together for the good of those who love him, will grant it” (cf. Letter, 113).

4. We unanimously declare the need to persevere on the path of constructive theological dialogue. Despite the difficulties noted, this path is one of the essential means we have at our disposal to re-establish around the altar of the Lord the unity so longed for by the Ecclesial Body, and likewise, to strengthen the credibility of the Christian message in this period of social upheaval in which we live, amid the great spiritual hunger of many of our contemporaries who are anxious about the increasing globalization that sometimes even threatens man’s existence and his relationship to God and to the world.

5. In a very special way, we solemnly renew our desire to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, especially to the new generations because “the love of Christ impels us” (II Cor 5: 14), and to enable them to discover the Lord, who came into our world so that all might have life and have it abundantly. This is particularly important in our societies where many currents of thought distance people from God and fail to give life meaning. We desire to proclaim the Gospel of grace and love so that all people may also be in communion with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and that their joy may be complete.

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