Milestones in Papal Ecumenism: Part Eight

Pope Benedict XVI saw ecumenism as central to the office of Bishop of Rome. At his first mass with the cardinals on April 20th, 2005, he stated in his homily:

Thus, in full awareness and at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome that Peter bathed with his blood, the current Successor assumes as his primary commitment that of working tirelessly towards the reconstitution of the full and visible unity of all Christ’s followers. This is his ambition, this is his compelling duty. He is aware that to do so, expressions of good feelings are not enough. Concrete gestures are required to penetrate souls and move consciences, encouraging everyone to that interior conversion which is the basis for all progress on the road of ecumenism.

On August 19th, at an ecumenical gathering at World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany he told the participants that “it is the Lord’s commandment, but also the imperative of the present hour, to carry on dialogue with conviction at all levels of the Church’s life.”  The next year, from November 29th- December 1st, he visited the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople for the celebration of the Feast of St Andrew and to mark the beginning of a fourth decade of fraternal dialogue between the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch.13-pope-patr On the feast day, November 30th, the two patriarchs issued a Common Declaration, noting the dialogue that had occurred between their predecessors and calling for continued and improved dialogue. This meeting would be the first of many between Benedict and Bartholomew over the next seven years. To mark the beginning of the Year of Paul, the ecumenical patriarch was in Rome for the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul, where he participated in vespers at St. Paul Outside the Walls. Part of this year was the Synod on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church which met from October 5th-26th, 2008 in Rome. On October 18th, The Ecumenical Patriarch addressed the synod in a vespers service in the Sistine Chapel. This was the first time that the Ecumenical Patriarch participated in the synod of bishops. 2878360e8544c897fb3726ad790f64cd

Benedict’s relationship with the other Orthodox Churches was similarly fruitful. Although he was unable to go to Russia and to meet the Patriarch of Moscow, he met then- Metropolitan Kirill on December 7th, 2007, Kirill, who would become Patriarch of Moscow in 2009, was quoted before the meeting as stating that the erection of Roman Catholic Dioceses in Russian Orthodox territories was an obstacle to fostering further relationship between the Churches.20090127cnsph00037 Nevertheless, after the meeting, he was quoted as saying the churches should work on common ground and the promotion of rights. This meeting followed the ratification on October 13th of the so-called Ravenna Document which spelled out the role the Pope could have following a union between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Although this document was ratified by the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue, the meeting showed the strain between Moscow and Constantinople in the Orthodox world. bxvi-hilarion-gandolfoThe result was that the Russian delegation walked out of the meeting. After his election to the Moscow Patriarchate, Kirill, through his representative for inter-church relationships, Metropolitan Hilarion, continued dialogue with Benedict.

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