The Vatican, June 16, 2007
“Blessed be God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph 1: 3).
1. We, Benedict XVI, Pope and Bishop of Rome, and Chrysostomos II, Archbishop of Nea Justiniana and All Cyprus, full of hope for the future of our Churches’ relations, thank God with joy for this fraternal meeting in our common faith in the Risen Christ. This visit has enabled us to observe how these relations have increased, both at a local level and in the context of the theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church as a whole. The Delegation of the Church of Cyprus has always made a positive contribution to this dialogue; among other things, for instance, in 1983 it hosted the Coordination Committee of the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue, so that in addition to doing the demanding preparatory work, the Catholic and Orthodox Members were able to visit and admire the great spiritual riches and wealth of art works of the Church of Cyprus.
2. On the happy occasion of our fraternal encounter at the tombs of Sts Peter and Paul, the “coryphaei of the Apostles”, as liturgical tradition says, we would like to declare of common accord our sincere and firm willingness, in obedience to the desire of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to intensify our search for full unity among all Christians, making every possible effort deemed useful to the life of our Communities. We desire that the Catholic and Orthodox faithful of Cyprus live a fraternal life in full solidarity, based on our common faith in the Risen Christ. We also wish to sustain and encourage the theological dialogue which is preparing through the competent International Commission to address the most demanding issues that marked the historical event of the division.
For full communion in the faith, the sacramental life and the exercise of the pastoral ministry, it is necessary to reach substantial agreement. To this end, we assure our faithful of our fervent prayers as Pastors in the Church and ask them to join us in a unanimous invocation “that they may all be one … so that the world may believe” (Jn 17: 21) .
3. At our meeting, we reviewed the historical situations in which our Churches are living. In particular, we examined the situation of division and tensions that have marked the Island of Cyprus for more than 30 years, with its tragic daily problems which impair the daily life of our communities and of individual families. More generally, we considered the situation in the Middle East, where the war and conflicts between peoples risk spreading with disastrous consequences. We prayed for the peace that “comes from the heavenly places”. It is the intention of our Churches to play a role of peacemaking in justice and solidarity and, to achieve all this, it is our constant wish to foster fraternal relations among all Christians and loyal dialogue between the different religions present and active in the Region. May faith in the one God help the people of these ancient and celebrated regions to rediscover friendly coexistence, in reciprocal respect and constructive collaboration.
4. We therefore address this appeal to all those who, everywhere in the world, raise their hand against their own brethren, exhorting them firmly to lay down their weapons and to take steps to heal the injuries caused by war. We also ask them to spare no effort to ensure that human rights are always defended in every nation: respect for the human person, an image of God, is in fact a fundamental duty for all. Thus, among the human rights to be safeguarded, freedom of religion should be at the top of the list. Failure to respect this right constitutes a very serious offence to the dignity of the human being, who is struck deep within his heart where God dwells. Consequently, to profane, destroy or sack the places of worship of any religion is an act against humanity and the civilization of the peoples.
5. We did not omit to reflect on a new opportunity that is opening for more intense contact and more concrete collaboration between our Churches. In fact, the building of the European Union is progressing, and Catholics and Orthodox are called to contribute to creating a climate of friendship and cooperation. At a time when secularization and relativism are growing, Catholics and Orthodox in Europe are called to offer a renewed common witness to the ethical values, ever ready to account for their faith in Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour. The European Union, which will not be able to restrict itself to merely economic cooperation, needs sound cultural foundations, shared ethical references and openness to the religious dimension. It is essential to revive the Christian roots of Europe which made its civilization great down the centuries and to recognize that in this regard the Western and Eastern Christian traditions have a common task to achieve.
6. At our encounter, therefore, we considered our Churches’ long journey through history and the great tradition which has come down to our day, starting with the proclamation of the first disciples, who came to Cyprus from Jerusalem after the persecution of Stephen, and reviewing Paul’s voyage from the coasts of Cyprus to Rome as it is recounted in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 11: 19; 27: 4ff.). The rich patrimony of faith and the solid Christian tradition of our lands should spur Catholics and Orthodox to a renewed impetus in proclaiming the Gospel in our age, in being faithful to our Christian vocation and in responding to the demands of the contemporary world.
7. The treatment of bioethical issues gives rise to serious concern. Indeed, there is a risk that certain techniques, applied to genetics, intentionally conceived to meet legitimate needs, actually go so far as to undermine the dignity of the human being created in the image of God. The exploitation of human beings, abusive experimentation and genetic experiments which fail to respect ethical values are an offence against life and attack the safety and dignity of every human person, in whose existence they can never be either justified or permitted.
8. At the same time, these ethical considerations and a shared concern for human life prompt us to invite those nations which, with God’s grace, have made significant progress in the areas of the economy and technology, not to forget their brothers and sisters who live in countries afflicted by poverty, hunger and disease. We therefore ask the leaders of nations to encourage and promote an equitable distribution of the goods of the earth in a spirit of solidarity with the poor and with all those who are destitute in the world.
9. We also concurred in our anxiety about the risk of destroying the creation. Man received it so that he might implement God’s plan. However, by setting himself up at the centre of the universe, forgetting the Creator’s mandate and shutting himself in a selfish search for his own well-being, the human being has managed the environment in which he lives by putting into practice decisions that threaten his own existence, whereas the environment requires the respect and protection of all who dwell in it.
10. Let us address together this prayer to the Lord of history, so that he will strengthen our Churches’ witness in order that the Gospel proclamation of salvation may reach the new generations and be a light for all men and women. To this end, we entrust our desires and commitments to the Theotokos, the Mother of God Hodegetria, who points out the way to Our Lord Jesus Christ.