Pope Benedict, promoter of contacts
Christians, Muslims, Jews and adherents of other faiths should consider themselves honoured to have in Pope Benedict XVI a great man who, with well chosen words, says what he means and means what he says - a resolute leader who passes from words to action.
As to his Apostolic journey to Turkey, and specially his ecumenical meeting with Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I on November 30, one has to note that from the very beginning of his Petrine ministry, Pope Benedict has made his commitment to ecumenism a priority of his pontificate.
As he has stated on April 20, 2005, during his homily in the Sistine Chapel the day after his election, "the present Successor of Peter feels personally responsible in this regard, and is prepared to do everything in his power to advance the fundamental cause of ecumenism... he is fully determined to encourage every initiative that seems appropriate for promoting contacts and understanding with the representatives of the different Churches and ecclesial communities".
The salient point of the ecumenical meeting of November 30 was the Common Declaration by Benedict XVI and Bartholomew I.
After expressing their deep gratitude to Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Dimitrios I for the creation of the Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, the two Church leaders stressed that "as far as relations between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople are concerned, we cannot fail to recall the solemn ecclesiastical effacing the memory of the ancient anathemas which, for centuries, have had a negative effect on relations between our Churches.
We have not yet drawn from this act all the positive consequences which can flow from it in our progress towards full unity, to which the mixed commission is called to make an important contribution. We exhort our faithful to take an active part in this process, through prayer and through significant gestures."
In their Common Declaration, Pope Benedict and Patriarch Bartholomew I declared that the mixed Commission for theological dialogue will treat the topic of "Conviviality and Authority in the Church" and this "will permit us to address some of the principal questions that are still unresolved. We are committed to offer unceasing support, as in the past, to the work entrusted to this Commission and we accompany its members with our prayers". Surely Pope Benedict is an exemplary pastor of doctrine, prayer and action.
In the Common Declaration the Holy Father and the Orthodox Patriarch said: "As Pastors, we have first of all reflected on the mission to proclaim the Gospel in today's world.
We cannot ignore the increase of secularisation, relativism, even nihilism, especially in the Western World. All this calls for a renewed and powerful proclamation of the Gospel, adapted to the cultures of our time... We have viewed positively the process that has led to the formation of the European Union.
Those engaged in this great project should not fail to take into consideration all aspects affecting the inalienable rights of the human person, especially religious freedom, a witness and a guarantor of respect for all other freedoms".