The Eastern Christian Churches by Ronald Roberson

1987: Ecumenical Patriarchate

The Vatican, December 7, 1987

We, Pope John Paul II and the Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I, give thanks to God who has granted us to meet in order to pray together with the faithful of the Church of Rome, venerable by the memory of the principal Apostles Peter and Paul, and to converse with one another concerning the life of Christ’s Church and its mission in the world.

Our meeting is a sign of the fraternal spirit which exists between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. This brotherly spirit which has been manifested on numerous occasions and in diverse ways, does not cease to grow and to bear fruit for the glory of God. We experience again the joy of being together as brothers (cf. Psalm 133). As we give thanks “to the Father of lights from whom every perfect gift comes” (cf. James 1: 17), we pray and we invite all the faithful of the Catholic Church and of the Orthodox Church to intercede with us before God: may he bring to perfection the work which he has begun among us! In making our own St Paul’s words, we exhort them: “Make my joy complete by living in full harmony” (Phil 2:2). May the heart of all be constantly disposed to receiving unity as a gift which the Lord makes to his Church!

We express our joy and satisfaction in taking note of the first results and the positive evolution of the theological dialogue announced at the time of our meeting at the Phanar on 30 November 1979. The documents accepted by the mixed commission constitute important points of reference for the continuation of the dialogue. Indeed, they seek to express what the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church can already profess together as their common faith regarding the mystery of the Church and the bond between faith and sacraments. Since each of our Churches has received and celebrates the same sacraments, they perceive better that, when unity in faith is assured, a certain diversity of expressions, often complementary, and of proper usages does not create an obstacle but enriches the life of the Church and the understanding, always imperfect, of the mystery revealed (cf. 1 Cor 13:12).

In view of these first results of the effort undertaken in common, in “the obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5), to re-establish full communion between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, we thank and encourage the members of the mixed commission for theological dialogue. We desire that the faithful be informed of this in order that they may give thanks to God, may join in prayer to the Lord “that all may be one” (Jn 17.21), may remain vigilant in intercession and may grow together in faith and hope. We desire as well that advances of the dialogue may bring Catholics and Orthodox to grow in better mutual understanding and in greater charity. By preaching, catechesis and theological formation oriented in this direction, the dialogue will bear all its fruits in the People of God.

We beseech the Spirit of the Lord, who at Pentecost manifest unity in the diversity of tongues, to “lead us to the whole, truth” (cf. John 16:13) and to ensure that solutions will be found to the difficulties which still hinder the full communion which will be made manifest in the Eucharistic celebration.

Our meeting takes place in this year of the twelfth centennial of the Second Council of Nicaea prepared by a long collaboration without rift between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople, which caused the Orthodox faith to triumph. The Churches of East and West, through the centuries, have celebrated together the ecumenical councils which have proclaimed and defended “the faith handed on to the saints once and for all” (Jude 3). “Called to one single hope” (Eph 4:4), we await the day willed by God when refound unity will be celebrated and when full communion will be established by a concelebration of the Lord’s Eucharist.

We renew before God our common commitment to promote the dialogue of charity in every possible manner, following the example of Christ in nourishing his Church and surrounding it with the solicitude of his charity (cf. Eph 5:29). In this spirit, we reject every form of proselytism, every attitude which would or could be perceived as a lack of respect.

This creative charity leads us to collaborate for justice and peace both on the global as well as on the regional and local level. It urges us not to limit this collaboration but to open it out beyond Christians to those who, in other religions, search for God, his justice and his peace. It makes us ready to work together for the welfare of humanity with all people of good will. Indeed, the Church’s mission towards the world which Christ comes to save implies the defense of human dignity wherever it is directly or indirectly called into question in a multitude of ways: among others, by the misery which hinders a decent life; by everything which impedes the life of couples and of families, the basis of the whole of society; by the limitation of the freedom of individuals and communities to live and profess their faith and develop according to their own culture; by the use of and traffic in human beings, youths in particular, in order to gratify the lust of others or to make them slaves to drug addition; by a pursuit of pleasure beyond moral limits; by the fear which generates the existence of means which gravely damage the integrity of creation; by racist ideologies denying the fundamental equality of all before God, ideologies particularly inadmissible for Christians who must reveal to the world the face of Christ the Savior and thus aid it to overcome its contradictions, its tensions and its anguish because they believe that God so loved the world that he gave his own Son in order that all might be saved by him (cf. John 3:16-17) and become in him one single body where they are members one of another (cf. Rom 12:5).

In these moments full of joy when we experience a profound spiritual communion which we wish to share with the pastors and faithful both of the East and the West, we raise our hearts to him who is the Head, Christ. It is from him that the whole body acts in harmony and agreement thanks to the structures which serve it according to an activity divided in the capacity of each one. Thus the body realizes its proper growth. Thus it builds itself up in love (cf. Eph 4:16).

May all glory be given to God through Christ in the Holy Spirit!

Last Modified: 23 March 2010

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