The 30th of November was a day of feasting in at Patriarchal Basilica of the Phanar in Istanbul, the celebration of the Solemnity of St. Andrew the Apostle, Patron of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
“The exchange of Delegations between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople [. . .] testifies in a concrete way to the close bond of fraternity that unites us. This is a real and profound communion, though still imperfect, which is not based on human courtesy and co-existence, but on the common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” These are the words that were written by Benedict XVI in his message to His Holiness Bartholomew I, underscoring how the full communion is a gift from God and assuring the Patriarch of his unity of prayer as well as that of all the Catholic faithful.
The president of the Pontifical Counsel for the Promotion of the Unity of Christians, Cardinal Kurt Koch, had guided this year’s delegation of the Holy See.
In his address the Patriarch highlighted the importance of moving as brothers towards Christ as he delineated today’s ecumenical journey.
His message was neither simplistic nor did it limit itself to being optimistic. It was an invitation to seek the path that must be taken in the present moment with a realistic reading of the past, and a desire to sincerely find the ways for drawing closer to each other. In this undertaking he indicated dialogue as the means par excellence for dispersing fear, suspicion and prejudice, dialogue which has as its goal “the Eucharistic Communion to which we all aspire.” [It is] a dialogue that facilitates mutual understanding in order to “arrive at the fullness of truth” (Jn. 16:13).
There was also an appeal for “Good Samaritans” to be neighbours for humanity that suffers today in various ways due to many “crises”. [It was] an appeal that we should be neighbours “together” so that we can be united in proclaiming the Lord’s power and mercy.
After he emotionally recalled his attendance at the 50th anniversary celebrations of Vatican II that had opened new paths, and the upcoming anniversary of the 1700 years of the Edict of Milan, he joyfully announced that the work that is underway for the Pan-Orthodox Council is coming to a close.
On Saturday morning (1 December 2012), Cardinal Koch and Metropolitan Gennadios from Sassima met with some representatives of the local Catholic community, talking informally about the ecumenical journey between the two sister Churches, tracing the challenges and the prospects in the process towards full unity since 50 years after the Second Vatican Council.
In the dialogue that followed Metropolitan Gennadios noted how the social priorities that are the consequence of the crisis, had given secondary importance to the ecumenical dialogue. His twenty-year experience at the mixed theological commission leads him to foresee a renewed impulse for finding solutions together and, in this way, giving a common life witness.
Cardinal Koch referred to a painting that portrays the embrace between the Apostles Peter and Andrew that hangs in the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. He underscored that the embrace between the two of them is a sign of His presence. He concluded by asking everyone to pray for unity, recalling that Jesus had not commanded it but asked it of the Father as His gift to us.