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“O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!” (Psalm 34:4)
Dear Brothers in Christ,
On this joyful occasion of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, patrons of the City and of the Church of Rome, I am particularly pleased to receive you with the words of the Psalm which will be sung in the solemn Eucharistic liturgy in honor of these two great Apostles and Martyrs. Expressing to you a warm welcome, I ask you to refer to His Holiness Bartholomew I and to the Holy Synod my sentiments of fraternal affection and heartfelt gratitude for having sent this year, worthy representatives to take part in this celebration of ours, and to give a cordial greeting to the clergy, to the monks and to all the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Your presence here in Rome, on the occasion of the liturgical feast of Saints Peter and Paul, gives us a special opportunity to raise our song of praise for the wonders that divine grace, from which every good comes, accomplished in the life of the two Apostles, rendering them worthy of entering triumphantly into heavenly glory, after having passed by the regenerating cleansing of martyrdom. Moreover, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul gives us the possibility to thank the Lord together for the extraordinary works that He has accomplished and continues to accomplish, through the Apostles, in the life of the Church. It is their preaching, sealed with the testimony of martyrdom, the firm and perennial foundation on which the Church is built, and it is in the fidelity to the deposit of the faith transmitted by them, that we find the roots of the communion we already experience among us.
Venerable brothers, in our meeting today, while we entrust to the intercession of the glorious Apostles and Martyrs Peter and Paul our prayer, so that the Lord, rich in mercy, will grant us to arrive soon the blessed day in which we will be able to share the Eucharistic table, we raise our voices in a hymn of praise to God for the path of peace and reconciliation that He gives us to follow together. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Vatican II Ecumenical Council, which will be celebrated solemnly next October 11. It is in fact in concomitance with this Council, at which, as you well know, some representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate were present in the capacity of fraternal Delegates, that a new and important phase began of relations between our Churches. We wish to praise the Lord first of all for the rediscovery of the profound fraternity that binds us, and also for the path followed in these years by the Mixed International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church as a whole, with the hope that in the present phase progress will also be made.
Recalling the anniversary of Vatican Council II, it seems fitting to me to recall the figure and activity of the unforgettable Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, of whom will be observed in a few days the 40th anniversary of his death. Patriarch Athenagoras, together with Blessed Pope John XXIII and the Servant of God Paul VI, animated by that passion for the unity of the Church springing from faith in Christ the Lord, were promoters of courageous initiatives that opened the way to renew relations between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Catholic Church. It is a motive of particular joy for me to see how His Holiness Bartholomew I follows, with renewed fidelity and fecund creativity, the path traced by his Predecessors the Patriarchs Athenagoras and Dimitrios, distinguishing himself at the international level for his openness to the dialogue between Christians and for his commitment to the service of proclaiming the Gospel in the contemporary world.
Eminence, dear members of the Delegation, thank you once again for your presence here in our midst. I assure you of my prayer that the Lord may grant health and strength to His Holiness Bartholomew I and that He may give prosperity and peace to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. May God Almighty give us the gift of an ever fuller communion according to His will, so that “with one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32) we will always be able to exalt His name.
[Original text: French]
[Translation by ZENIT]