Pope and Patriarch sign historic declaration

 On Saturday morning Pope John Paul II and His Beatitude Teoctist, patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Romania, signed a joint Declaration, pledging their commitment to working for unity between the two churches. They wrote: 'Today's encounter can be considered as the continuation of the embrace that we exchanged in Bucharest in the month of May 1999, while our hearts heard the echo of the heartfelt appeal: 'Be united! Be united! Unity! Unity!' that arose spontaneously before us, on that occasion, from the great crowd of faithful." 'Today's circumstance reinforces our commitment to pray and work in order to reach full visible unity among all the disciples of Christ. Our aim and our ardent desire is full communion, which is not absorption, but communion in truth and love. It is an irreversible path, which has no alternatives: it is the way of the Church. 'Still marked by the sad historical period during which the Name and Lordship of the Redeemer were denied, the Christian community in Romania often finds difficulties in overcoming the negative effects that those years produced on the exercise of fraternity and sharing and on the search for communion. ... We must overcome, through sincere dialogue, the conflicts, misunderstandings and suspicions that have arisen from the past, so that Christians in Romania, in this decisive period of their history, may be witnesses of peace and reconciliation. "Our relationship must reflect the true and deep communion in Christ that already exists among us, even if it is not yet full. We recognize, in fact, with joy that we share the tradition of the undivided Church, centred on the mystery of Christ." 'To nourish the search for full communion, even in the doctrinal differences that still remain, we must find concrete instruments, setting up regular consultations. ... We must strengthen this progress so that the full truth of faith becomes a common patrimony. 'We well know how to regulate ourselves in setting up the orientations that should guide the work of evangelization, so very necessary after the dark period of State atheism. ... Evangelization cannot be based on a spirit of competition, but on reciprocal respect and cooperation, that recognizes for each person the freedom to live according to one's own convictions, within the respect of one's own religious beliefs.' 'In developing our contacts, we have been witnesses of a promising rapprochement between East and West. ... For this reason we note with some concern the difficulties that the Mixed International Commission of dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church is going through and, on the occasion of this meeting of ours, we wish to express the hope that no initiative is ignored in re-activating the theological dialogue and starting anew the activity of the commission.' 'The new possibilities that are being created in an already united Europe ... constitute a challenge that Christians of both East and West must accept together. The more united they are in their witness to the One and Only Lord, the more they will contribute to giving a voice, consistency and space to the Christian soul of Europe: to the sanctity of life, the dignity and basic rights of the human person, to justice and solidarity, peace, reconciliation, family values and care for all of creation. All of Europe needs the rich culture forged by Christianity.' On Sunday, John Paul II presided at Mass in which the patriarch participated. Both took part in the Liturgy of the Word, and prayed the Creed together, separating at the moment of the Eucharistic prayer. After the proclamation of the Gospel in Latin and Romanian, Patriarch Teoctist read his homily. Referring to the spiritual crisis in the world, he affirmed that it is necessary "to discover once again the link between penitence and conversion, and a return to Christ, gentle and full of compassion, and also the rebuilding of communion between the Churches." "Contemporary secularization is accompanied by a breach and impoverishment of man's interior spiritual life. In this way, secularization weakens even more the spiritual communion among Christians. Thus, today we must unite the search for sanctity in Christian life with the realization of Christian unity." Later, in his homily, the Holy Father spoke about the Lord's call to "be part of His Church, one, holy, catholic and apostolic," asking: "Unfortunately, haven't we rejected His invitation? Haven't we torn Christ's seamless cloak, distancing ourselves from others? Yes! This reciprocal division is contrary to His will." And he added: "One day we will be asked what we have done for the unity of Christians." "True ecumenism cannot exist," he emphasized, "without interior conversion and renovation of the mind, without overcoming prejudices, suspicions; without eliminating words, judgements, actions that do not reflect the condition of our separated brothers with justice and truth; without the will to learn to esteem others, to establish a reciprocal friendship, to nourish a fraternal love." "We must cultivate the spirituality of communion," concluded the Pope. "We must incessantly feed the passion for unity."

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