Pope reaches out to Orthodox Church on first visit from Rome

 Pope Benedict XVI yesterday said he wants to heal the rift with the Orthodox Church during his papacy. He was speaking to hundreds of thousands of people attending a Mass in the southern Italian city of Bari during his first pilgrimage away from the Vatican since he was elected less than two months ago. After arriving by helicopter the Pope waved to the crowds from his white pope mobile, as he was taken to the large area near the sea where he presided over the open air Mass. Many thousands of people had gathered from early in the morning to take part. The Mass closed a week-long Catholic congress on the Eucharist. Bari is often referred to as a bridge between East and West. Pope Benedict has said from the start of his papacy that he wants to further dialogue among different Christian faiths. He said it again in this city, which has close ties to the Orthodox Church. Amid loud applause, the Pope said: "Right here in Bari, happy Bari, city that is home to the bones of Saint Nicholas and land of meeting and dialogue with our Christian brothers from the East, I want to repeat my willingness to assume, as a fundamental commitment, working to reconstitute the full and visible unity of all the followers of Christ, with all my energy."

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