design from Haghia Triada Greek Catholic Cathedral, Athens, Greece




Pope BENEDICT XVI and the Christian East

It is well known that the new pope considers as one of the priorities of his pontificate to carry on the work of his holy predecessor in striving to heal the divisions that separate the Christian Churches, East and West.

On this page we will seek to chronicle Pope Benedict XVI's s efforts and reflections in his quest of this goal.

(NOVEMBER 28 - DECEMBER 1, 2006)



Patriarchal Cathedral of Saint George in the Phanar, Istanbul
Wednesday, 29 November 2006

 “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity (Ps 133:1)

Your Holiness,

I am deeply grateful for the fraternal welcome extended to me by you personally, and by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. I will treasure its memory forever. I thank the Lord for the grace of this encounter, so filled with authentic goodwill and ecclesial significance.

It gives me great joy to be among you, my brothers in Christ, in this Cathedral Church, as we pray together to the Lord and call to mind the momentous events that have sustained our commitment to work for the full unity of Catholics and Orthodox. I wish above all to recall the courageous decision to remove the memory of the anathemas of 1054. The joint declaration of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, written in a spirit of rediscovered love, was solemnly read in a celebration held simultaneously in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome and in this Patriarchal Cathedral. The Tomos of the Patriarch was based on the Johannine profession of faith: “Ho Theós agapé estin” (1 Jn 4:9), Deus caritas est! In perfect agreement, Pope Paul VI chose to begin his own Brief with the Pauline exhortation: “Ambulate in dilectione” (Eph 5:2), “Walk in love”. It is on this foundation of mutual love that new relations between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople have developed.

Signs of this love have been evident in numerous declarations of shared commitment and many meaningful gestures. Both Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II were warmly received as visitors in this Church of Saint George, and joined respectively with Patriarchs Athenagoras I and Dimitrios I in strengthening the impetus towards mutual understanding and the quest of full unity. May their names be honoured and blessed!

I also rejoice to be in this land so closely connected to the Christian faith, where many Churches flourished in ancient times. I think of Saint Peter’s exhortations to the early Christian communities “in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Pet 1:1), and the rich harvest of martyrs, theologians, pastors, monastics, and holy men and women which those Churches brought forth over the centuries.

I likewise recall the outstanding saints and pastors who have watched over the See of Constantinople, among them Saint Gregory of Nazianzus and Saint John Chrysostom, whom the West also honours as Doctors of the Church. Their relics rest in the Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican, and a part of them were given to Your Holiness as a sign of communion by the late Pope John Paul II for veneration in this very Cathedral. Truly, they are worthy intercessors for us before the Lord.

In this part of the Eastern world were also held the seven Ecumenical Councils which Orthodox and Catholics alike acknowledge as authoritative for the faith and discipline of the Church. They are enduring milestones and guides along our path towards full unity.

I conclude by expressing once more my joy to be with you. May this meeting strengthen our mutual affection and renew our common commitment to persevere on the journey leading to reconciliation and the peace of the Churches.

I greet you in the love of Christ. May the Lord be always with you.

© Copyright 2006 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

(NOVEMBER 28 - DECEMBER 1, 2006)



Patriarchal Church of Saint George in the Phanar, Istanbul
Thursday, 30 November 2006

This Divine Liturgy celebrated on the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Patron Saint of the Church of Constantinople, brings us back to the early Church, to the age of the Apostles. The Gospels of Mark and Matthew relate how Jesus called the two brothers, Simon, whom Jesus calls Cephas or Peter, and Andrew: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt 4:19, Mk 1:17). The Fourth Gospel also presents Andrew as the first to be called, “ho protoklitos”, as he is known in the Byzantine tradition. It is Andrew who then brings his brother Simon to Jesus (cf. Jn 1:40f.).

Today, in this Patriarchal Church of Saint George, we are able to experience once again the communion and call of the two brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew, in the meeting of the Successor of Peter and his Brother in the episcopal ministry, the head of this Church traditionally founded by the Apostle Andrew. Our fraternal encounter highlights the special relationship uniting the Churches of Rome and Constantinople as Sister Churches.

With heartfelt joy we thank God for granting new vitality to the relationship that has developed since the memorable meeting in Jerusalem in January 1964 between our predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras. Their exchange of letters, published in the volume entitled Tomos Agapis, testifies to the depth of the bonds that grew between them, bonds mirrored in the relationship between the Sister Churches of Rome and Constantinople.

On 7 December 1965, the eve of the final session of the Second Vatican Council, our venerable predecessors took a new and unique and unforgettable step in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George and the Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican respectively: they removed from the memory of the Church the tragic excommunications of 1054. In this way they confirmed a decisive shift in our relationship. Since then, many other important steps have been taken along the path of mutual rapprochement. I recall in particular the visit of my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, to Constantinople in 1979, and the visits to Rome of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.

In that same spirit, my presence here today is meant to renew our commitment to advancing along the road towards the re-establishment – by God’s grace – of full communion between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople. I can assure you that the Catholic Church is willing to do everything possible to overcome obstacles and to seek, together with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, ever more effective means of pastoral cooperation to this end.

The two brothers, Simon, called Peter, and Andrew, were fishermen whom Jesus called to become fishers of men. The Risen Lord, before his Ascension, sent them out together with the other Apostles with the mission of making all nations his disciples, baptizing them and proclaiming his teachings (cf. Mt 28:19ff.; Lk 24:47; Acts 1:8).

This charge left us by the holy brothers Peter and Andrew is far from finished. On the contrary, today it is even more urgent and necessary. For it looks not only to those cultures which have been touched only marginally by the Gospel message, but also to long-established European cultures deeply grounded in the Christian tradition. The process of secularization has weakened the hold of that tradition; indeed, it is being called into question, and even rejected. In the face of this reality, we are called, together with all other Christian communities, to renew Europe’s awareness of its Christian roots, traditions and values, giving them new vitality.

Our efforts to build closer ties between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches are a part of this missionary task. The divisions which exist among Christians are a scandal to the world and an obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel. On the eve of his passion and death, the Lord, surrounded by his disciples, prayed fervently that all may be one, so that the world may believe (cf. Jn 17:21). It is only through brotherly communion between Christians and through their mutual love that the message of God’s love for each and every man and woman will become credible. Anyone who casts a realistic glance on the Christian world today will see the urgency of this witness.

Simon Peter and Andrew were called together to become fishers of men. This same task, however, took on a different form for each of the brothers. Simon, notwithstanding his human weakness, was called “Peter”, the “rock” on which the Church was to be built; to him in a particular way were entrusted the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Mt 16:18). His journey would take him from Jerusalem to Antioch, and from Antioch to Rome, so that in that City he might exercise a universal responsibility. The issue of the universal service of Peter and his Successors has unfortunately given rise to our differences of opinion, which we hope to overcome, thanks also to the theological dialogue which has been recently resumed.

My venerable predecessor, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, spoke of the mercy that characterizes Peter’s service of unity, a mercy which Peter himself was the first to experience (Encyclical Ut Unum Sint, 91). It is on this basis that Pope John Paul extended an invitation to enter into a fraternal dialogue aimed at identifying ways in which the Petrine ministry might be exercised today, while respecting its nature and essence, so as to “accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned” (ibid., 95). It is my desire today to recall and renew this invitation.

Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, received another task from the Lord, one which his very name suggests. As one who spoke the Greek language, he became – together with Philip – the Apostle of the encounter with the Greeks who came to Jesus (cf. Jn 12:20ff.). Tradition tells us that he was a missionary not only in Asia Minor and the territories south of the Black Sea, that is, in this very region, but also in Greece, where he suffered martyrdom.

The Apostle Andrew, therefore, represents the meeting between early Christianity and Greek culture. This encounter, particularly in Asia Minor, became possible thanks especially to the great Cappadocian Fathers, who enriched the liturgy, theology and spirituality of both the Eastern and the Western Churches. The Christian message, like the grain of wheat (cf. Jn 12:24), fell on this land and bore much fruit. We must be profoundly grateful for the heritage that emerged from the fruitful encounter between the Christian message and Hellenic culture. It has had an enduring impact on the Churches of East and West. The Greek Fathers have left us a store of treasure from which the Church continues to draw riches old and new (cf. Mt 13:52).

The lesson of the grain of wheat that dies in order to bear fruit also has a parallel in the life of Saint Andrew. Tradition tells us that he followed the fate of his Lord and Master, ending his days in Patras, Greece. Like Peter, he endured martyrdom on a cross, the diagonal cross that we venerate today as the cross of Saint Andrew. From his example we learn that the path of each single Christian, like that of the Church as a whole, leads to new life, to eternal life, through the imitation of Christ and the experience of his cross.

In the course of history, both the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople have often experienced the lesson of the grain of wheat. Together we venerate many of the same martyrs whose blood, in the celebrated words of Tertullian, became the seed of new Christians (Apologeticum, 50, 13). With them, we share the same hope that impels the Church to “press forward, like a stranger in a foreign land, amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God” (Lumen Gentium, 8, cf. Saint Augustine, De Civ. Dei, XVIII, 51, 2). For its part, the century that has just ended also saw courageous witnesses to the faith, in both East and West. Even now, there are many such witnesses in different parts of the world. We remember them in our prayer and, in whatever way we can, we offer them our support, as we urge all world leaders to respect religious freedom as a fundamental human right.

The Divine Liturgy in which we have participated was celebrated according to the rite of Saint John Chrysostom. The cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ have been made mystically present. For us Christians this is a source and sign of constantly renewed hope. We find that hope beautifully expressed in the ancient text known as the Passion of Saint Andrew: “I greet you, O Cross, consecrated by the Body of Christ and adorned by His limbs as by precious pearls … May the faithful know your joy, and the gifts you hold in store …”.

This faith in the redeeming death of Jesus on the cross, and this hope which the Risen Christ offers to the whole human family, are shared by all of us, Orthodox and Catholics alike. May our daily prayer and activity be inspired by a fervent desire not only to be present at the Divine Liturgy, but to be able to celebrate it together, to take part in the one table of the Lord, sharing the same bread and the same chalice. May our encounter today serve as an impetus and joyful anticipation of the gift of full communion. And may the Spirit of God accompany us on our journey!

 Copyright 2006 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


(NOVEMBER 28 - DECEMBER 1, 2006)



Armenian Apostolic Cathedral, Istanbul
Thursday, 30 November 2006

Dear Brother in Christ,

I am pleased to have this opportunity to meet Your Beatitude in this very place where Patriarch Shnork Kalustian welcomed my predecessors Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II. With great affection I greet the entire Armenian Apostolic community over which you preside as shepherd and spiritual father. My fraternal greeting goes also to His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians, and the hierarchy of the Armenian Apostolic Church. I give thanks to God for the Christian faith and witness of the Armenian people, transmitted from one generation to the next, often in very tragic circumstances such as those experienced in the last century.

Our meeting is more than a simple gesture of ecumenical courtesy and friendship. It is a sign of our shared hope in God’s promises and our desire to see fulfilled the prayer that Jesus offered for his disciples on the eve of his suffering and death: “that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I in you, may they also be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21). Jesus gave his life on the Cross to gather into one the dispersed children of God, to break down the walls of division. Through the sacrament of Baptism, we have been incorporated into the Body of Christ, the Church. The tragic divisions which, over time, have arisen among Christ’s followers openly contradict the Lord’s will, give scandal to the world and damage that most holy cause, the preaching of the Gospel to every creature (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio, 1). Precisely by the witness of their faith and love, Christians are called to offer a radiant sign of hope and consolation to this world, so marked by conflicts and tensions. We must continue therefore to do everything possible to heal the wounds of separation and to hasten the work of rebuilding Christian unity. May we be guided in this urgent task by the light and strength of the Holy Spirit.

In this respect I can only offer heartfelt thanks to the Lord for the deeper fraternal relationship that has developed between the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church. In the thirteenth century, Nerses of Lambron, one of the great Doctors of the Armenian Church, wrote these words of encouragement: “Now, since we all need peace with God, let its foundation be harmony among the brethren. We have prayed to God for peace and continue to do so. Look, he is now giving it to us as a gift: let us welcome it! We asked the Lord to make his holy Church solid, and he has willingly heard our plea. Let us climb therefore the mountain of the Gospel faith!” (Synodal Discourse). These words of Nerses have lost nothing of their power. Together let us continue to pray for the unity of all Christians, so that, by receiving this gift from above with open hearts, we may be ever more convincing witnesses of the truth of the Gospel and better servants of the Church’s mission.




© Copyright 2006 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana



(NOVEMBER 28 - DECEMBER 1, 2006)

Excerpts from the description of the Liturgical Book

used during this Apostolic Journey:

1.  The Significance of the Apostolic Journey

In the footsteps of his predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has chosen to honour the land of Turkey with one of the first Apostolic Journeys of his Pontificate.  Turkey is spread over a vast region which, not without reason, has been called “the Holy Land of the Church”.  It was there that the Christian community, particularly in the great centres of Antioch and Ephesus, became conscious of her identity and consolidated her growth. There the Church opened out to the ancient world in a process of inculturation and adaptation which made her truly “catholic”, open to all cultural expressions. Furthermore, this land was the starting-point for the first evangelization of both the Far East and the Slav peoples.

It was not by chance that most of the writings that make up the New Testament originated in this land or were addressed to its Christian communities.  Two of those biblical authors, Paul of Tarsus and Luke of Antioch, are among the first witnesses to a Church that in the course of the centuries saw a rich flowering of outstanding figures who left their mark on the whole of Christianity.  We need but recall the Cappadocian Fathers, and those of Antioch and the Syria, to say nothing of the ranks of martyrs and ascetics whom even today the liturgy offers us as models of Christian life.

The journey of the Bishop of Rome to Turkey takes place between two significant dates that recall those illustrious witnesses of the faith: the seventeenth centenary of the birth of Ephrem the Syrian (306) and the sixteenth centenary of the death of John Chrysostom (407).

Both are splendid rays of that “light from the East” which the Holy Father John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen (1995), wished to reaffirm, so that the universal Church would treasure the rich witness, wisdom and spirituality of the Christian East and would look back with nostalgia to the first Christian millennium, when the Church lived in unity.

In a pluralistic age like our own, the manifold riches of the various religious traditions, past and present, found in the land of Turkey bear witness to the fact that pluralism in liturgical and spiritual expressions, and unity of faith in Christ the Lord, can be combined harmoniously.  The Holy Father has rightly spoken of dialogue as a “polyphony of cultures”.

This principle is true for the various Christian confessions, but it is also applicable to the dialogue between Christians and the followers of Islam.  Shadows from the past cannot obscure the light radiating from the daily “dialogue of life”, the “dialogue of charity” and the “dialogue of religious experiences” which has marked relations here between Christians and Muslims.

The journey of Pope Benedict XVI to Turkey is a part of this history, and must be understood in the light of that history.  It is a pastoral journey, an ecumenical journey and a journey of dialogue with the Islamic world.

1. A pastoral journey

The Catholic Church in Turkey, with its various ritual expressions (Latin, Armenian Catholic, Syrian Catholic, Chaldean) is a small minority in a prevalently Sunni Muslim world.  Like the Apostle Peter who, wrote a letter (1 Peter) from Rome to the Christian communities in diaspora in present-day Turkey, his Successor now speaks to those same communities, not only in words but also by his presence.  Saint Peter urged the Christians there “to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15).  In our own times, which have seen the rise and spread of forms of religious intolerance, Pope Benedict XVI, through the preaching of the word and the celebration of the sacraments, comes to confirm the Catholic community of Turkey in hope and in fidelity to Christ.

There are two celebrations of the Eucharist with the Catholic faithful of Turkey.  The first takes place at the national Marian shrine of Meryen Aria Evi (the House of Mother Mary) in Ephesus, the city where the Council of 431 proclaimed her divine maternity, but also where – according to a pious tradition – Mary dwelt for some time with Saint John.  The shrine is a point of encounter and prayer for Christians and Muslims, who acknowledge in Mary the ever-virgin mother of Jesus, the woman chosen by God for the good of humanity.

The second Eucharistic celebration takes place on 1 December in Istanbul, in the Cathedral Church of the Holy Spirit.  Representatives of the various Eastern Rite Catholic communities in Turkey will take part in the Mass, which will be celebrated in the Latin rite; their presence will be emphasized by a number of ritual expressions proper to each Rite.

2. An ecumenical journey

From the very beginning of his Petrine ministry, Pope Benedict XVI has made commitment to ecumenism a priority of his Pontificate.  As he stated on 20 April 2005, in a homily delivered in the Sistine Chapel the day after his election, “the present Successor of Peter feels personally responsible in this regard, and is prepared to do everything in his power to advance the fundamental cause of ecumenism.  In the footsteps of his predecessors, he is fully determined to encourage every initiative that seems appropriate for promoting contacts and understanding with the representatives of the different Churches and Ecclesial Communities”.

The Pope’s journey to Istanbul is to be seen against this background, and finds a first significant moment in his meeting of prayer and dialogue on 29 November with His Holiness Bartholomew I in the Patriarchal Cathedral.  At the end of the common prayer, the relics of Saint Gregory the Theologian and Saint John Chrysostom will be venerated.  The heart of the visit to the Ecumenical Patriarch takes place on 30 November, the liturgical memorial of the Apostle Andrew.  The Holy Father’s participation in the Divine Liturgy is followed by a brief common prayer and the unveiling of a stone commemorating the last three Popes who visited the Patriarchate, and concludes with the reading and signature of a Joint Declaration by His Holiness and Patriarch Bartholomew I.

The ecumenical character of the journey of the Bishop of Rome to the Sister Churches of Turkey is also emphasized by a visit that same day to His Beatitude Patriarch Mesrob II Mutafyan at the Armenian Apostolic Patriarchate.

The moment of personal encounter, common prayer and the unveiling of an inscription in Armenian and Turkish commemorating the visits of Paul VI, John Paul II and now Benedict XVI, is meant to signify the ties linking the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church.

In the same spirit of fraternal communion in Christ, the Holy Father later that afternoon receives, in the Papal Representation in Istanbul, the Syrian Orthodox Archbishop and several heads of Protestant communities.

3. A journey under the banner of interreligious dialogue

It is significant that the Holy Father’s first journey to a predominantly Muslim country begins in the very land from which Abraham, the common patriarch of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, undertook his journey of faith in God.  It was from Harran, a village in present-day Turkey, that he set out in a spirit of total dependence upon God, trusting solely in the word that had been revealed to him.

The renewed memory of these common roots linking the three religions, which the Holy Father wishes to evoke in his journey, is an invitation to overcome the conflicts between Jews, Christians and Muslims that have taken place over the centuries.

Here, we cannot fail to recall that during his nine year stay in Turkey, the Apostolic Delegate Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, later Pope John XXIII, came to recognize the urgent need for interreligious dialogue, which found expression in the Declaration Nostra Aetate of the Second Vatican Council, which he called as Pope.

Recently, Pope Benedict XVI referred to that Declaration as the Magna Charta of the Catholic Church in her relations with the Islamic world (cf. Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 25 September 2006).

The Holy Father’s journey to Turkey – in continuity with the thought of Pope John Paul II – is meant to reaffirm the Catholic Church’s conviction of the pressing need for interreligious dialogue.  Turkey, an officially secular state, which acts as a bridge between Europe and Asia and is home to various religious traditions, is, as it were, a balcony looking out on the Middle East, from which the values of interreligious dialogue, tolerance, reciprocity and the secular character of the State can be reaffirmed.

II. The liturgical book for the journey

The Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, as is customary for papal journeys, has also prepared a liturgical book for the Pope’s Apostolic Journey to Turkey.

The volume, intended especially for the Holy Father himself and the concelebrants, contains the texts and the rubrics of the celebrations planned for the journey.

1. Celebrations with the Catholic community

The Holy Father presides at three celebrations of the Eucharist:

- Wednesday, 29 November, at the Shrine of Meryem Ana Evi in Ephesus;

- Thursday, 30 November, at the Chapel of the Papal Representation in Istanbul;

- Friday, 1 December, at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul.

The celebration at the Shrine of Meryem Ana Evi

The Eucharist is celebrated in an open place near the Shrine of Meryem Ana Evi, and is marked by clear mariological and ecclesiological themes.

The Mass is that of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The euchological texts and the biblical readings stress the mystery of Mary’s maternity with reference to her presence, with the Apostle John, beneath the Lord’s Cross.  Jesus’ words from the Cross: “Behold your son … Behold your Mother” (Jn 19:26-27), have been seen by the Church as a special testament, by which Christ the Lord “entrusted to the Virgin Mary all his disciples to be her children”, while at the same time entrusting his Mother to the disciples.

In addition to Latin, the celebration uses Turkish, Italian, French, English and German.

The celebration in the Chapel of the Papal Representation

The texts of the celebration are from the Feast of the Apostle Andrew.  The Mass is celebrated in Latin, while the readings are proclaimed in the vernacular.

The staff of the Papal Representation will take part in the celebration.

The celebration in the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit

The texts for the celebration in the Cathedral of Istanbul are drawn from the Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit.  The celebration has an explicit pneumatological dimension, linked not only to the fact that the Cathedral is dedicated to the Holy Spirit, but also to the particular nature of the assembly taking part, which is made up of various groups of different languages and rites, united in the same faith, by the same love and by one Spirit.

The celebration, both in its use of these languages and certain ritual sequences, is meant to express the diversity of the Catholic community. 

The languages used are: Latin, Turkish, French, German, Syriac, Arabic and Spanish.

A number of ritual sequences emphasize the presence of the various Eastern rites: Armenian, Chaldean, Syrian.  The Armenians will chant the entrance song and the Sanctus; the Chaldeans will chant the responsorial Psalm and the offertory song (in Aramaic); and the Syrians will chant the Gospel in accordance with their own ritual usage.

2. The ecumenical celebrations

There are three ecumenical moments of prayer:

- Wednesday, 29 November: Prayer service in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George in the Phanar:

- Thursday, 30 November: the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George in the Phanar;

- Friday, 1 December: the Liturgy of the Word in the Armenian Cathedral of Saint Mary.

The prayer service in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George in the Phanar

The evening prayer service is made up of a brief Akolouthia composed for the occasion, using various elements drawn from the different hours and feasts of the offices of the Byzantine Church.

As the Pope and the Patriarch enter the Church, seven antiphons are sung, five of which are taken from the Psalter and from texts of the Byzantine night service for Sunday.  The first antiphon, drawn from Psalm 88:16-17: “They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of your countenance; in your name shall they rejoice all the day, and in your righteousness shall they be exalted”, contains a reference to the theme of light which links the service to the evening hour when it is celebrated.  The other Psalm antiphons are invitations to praise the Lord in his glory.  The third and the sixth antiphons, drawn from the Sunday service, make explicit reference to the Holy Spirit bestowed upon the Apostles: “The Holy Spirit is the fount of all wisdom, for from him comes grace to the Apostles… The Holy Spirit is the source of divine treasures, for from him comes wisdom, awe and understanding…”.

The office opens with the initial blessing found in all the services of the Byzantine tradition: “Blessed is our God, always, now and forever and to the ages of ages”.

Six troparia chosen for the celebration are then chanted: the first is from Pentecost, the day when the Lord, by sending the Holy Spirit, made fishers men of wisdom for the salvation of the world.  The second and third troparia are from the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Patrons of the Church of Rome, and the feast of Saint Andrew, Patron of the Church of Constantinople. The fourth troparion honours Saint Benedict.  The fifth is a “new” text, used first for the visit of His Holiness Pope Paul VI to Istanbul in 1967: it sings the joy of the city of Constantinople in receiving the one who presides over the Church of Rome and sits in the Chair of Peter.  The last of the troparia is the kontakion chanted in the weeks prior to Christmas, which describes the joy of the world at seeing the Virgin ready to give birth to the Eternal Word of God.

The third part of the office contains six verses of the doxology concluded by the Trisagion.  There then follows a litany with seven intercessions and a final prayer, recited by the Patriarch.  There are intercessions for the Pope, for the Patriarch, for the Churches and for the whole world.

A biblical reading follows, taken from the prophet Zechariah (8:7-17).  The voice of the prophet calls the peoples from East and West and assembles them in Jerusalem. 

The recitation of the Our Father follows the reading, introduced by the customary invitatory from the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom: “Make us worthy, Master, with confidence and without condemnation, to dare call you, the heavenly God, Father, and to say…”.  The chant of the Our Father ends with the verse which ordinarily concludes the proclamation of the Gospel:  “Glory to you, O Lord, glory to you”.

This is followed by the veneration of the relics of Saint Gregory the Theologian and Saint John Chrysostom.  A portion of the relics of these two sainted Fathers of the Church of Constantinople, preserved in the Basilica of Saint Peter, were given by Pope John Paul II, of venerable memory, to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in the course of a moving celebration in the Vatican Basilica on 27 November 2004.  During the veneration of the relics, the choir chants two troparia, those of Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Gregory the Theologian.

The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George in the Phanar

The Byzantine Liturgy is common to all the Churches of the Byzantine tradition, both Orthodox and Catholic: those of Greece, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and southern Italy.  The Byzantine Churches use three anaphoras or Eucharistic prayers, also called simply “liturgies”: those of Saint John Chrysostom – used almost daily; Saint Basil – used ten times a year; and Saint James – used only once a year.  The Byzantine Divine Liturgy, like that of all the Eastern Churches, is celebrated facing East.  The priest and all the faithful look to the East, whence Christ will come again in glory.  The priest intercedes before the Lord for his people; he walks at the head of the people towards the encounter with the Lord.  At different moments the priest turns to the people: for the proclamation of the Gospel, for the dialogue preceding the anaphora, for the communion with the holy gifts, and for all the blessings.  These symbolize moments in which the Lord himself comes forth to meet his people.

The Byzantine Divine Liturgy has three parts: the preparation of the priest and the gifts of bread and wine (prothesis); the liturgy of the catechumens (liturgy of the word); and the liturgy of the faithful.

A. The preparation of the gifts has two parts.  First, the preparation of the priest, which includes the prayers and his clothing with the sacred vestments.  In the prayers the priest asks the Lord in his mercy to make him worthy to offer the sacrifice, to intercede for the people, to call down the Holy Spirit.

There follows the preparation of the gifts of bread and wine.  Although the rite of preparation is performed by the priest alone, the whole Church, in heaven and in earth, is symbolically present.

B. The liturgy of the catechumens calls for the participation of the catechumens, who are then dismissed after the proclamation of the Gospel.

The Divine Liturgy begins with an invocation of the Holy Trinity: “Blessed be the kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…”.  Three litanies follow, a longer one and two shorter ones, which invoke the Lord’s mercy upon the whole world and the entire Church.  Mention is made of the Church, her members and all those in need.  These litanies always include an invocation to the Mother of God, who intercedes for everyone and for the Holy Church.  After the second litany the christological hymn, “Only-Begotten” is sung; this is an ancient liturgical hymn that summarizes the principal dogmas of the Christian faith: the Trinity, the Incarnation of the Word of God, the divine maternity of Mary, the salvation that is bestowed on us by Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.  There follows the “Small Entrance”.  In a solemn procession, the priest and the deacon take the Gospel from the altar, show it to the faithful and set it again on the altar, in order to indicate the beginning of the proclamation of the word of God: originally this was the entrance procession.  Before the readings the Trisagion is chanted:  “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal…”.  Two readings are then proclaimed from the New Testament.  The Gospel is usually followed by a homily.

C. The Liturgy of the Faithful.  The third part of the Divine Liturgy is the liturgy of the faithful, in which those who are baptized participate fully.  It begins with the “Great Entrance”, the procession with the bread and wine towards the altar.  The choir sings the hymn: “We who mystically represent the Cherubim…”, another ancient liturgical text in which the Church of heaven and earth is united in praise and thanksgiving to God for his gifts.  The priest incenses the altar, the church, the gifts and the faithful, all of which are icons of Christ.  He then solemnly takes the paten and the chalice, and after asking the Lord to remember all those who have been commemorated and the whole Church, he sets them on the altar and covers them with the veil.  The priest then recites for himself and the whole Church the words of the Good Thief from his cross: “Remember me, Lord, in your Kingdom…”.  The gifts, a symbol of Christ, the Lamb who was slain, are then placed on the altar, as if in the tomb from which, after the consecration or sanctification, the life-giving Body of Christ will be given to each of the faithful.  After the entrance, litanies are sung, the sign of peace is exchanged, and the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed is recited.  There follows the anaphora of Saint John Chrysostom, which has a structure similar to that of the other anaphoras of the Eastern and Western liturgies: an initial trinitarian dialogue, Preface, Sanctus, anamnesis, institution narrative, epiclesis, intercessions and conclusion.

This is followed by the Our Father, the breaking of the bread and communion.  Before communion the priest pours some boiling water (called the zéon) into the chalice as a symbol of the outpouring and presence of the Holy Spirit, as well as a sign of the life which comes from communion in the living and life-giving Body and Blood of Christ himself.  Communion is received under both species.

The Divine Liturgy concludes with the final blessing.

The Liturgy of the Word in the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral of Saint Mary

The prayers and ritual sequences making up the prayer service have been drawn from various elements of the Eucharistic celebration of the Armenian Liturgy.

Before the entrance procession in the Cathedral, in accordance with the Armenian national tradition, the Holy Father is presented with bread, salt and rose water as symbols of welcome and good wishes.

As His Holiness and His Beatitude enter the Cathedral, the choir performs the chant Herasciapar Asdvadz (“O Wondrous God”), which recounts the story of the conversion of the Armenian people to Christianity through the efforts of Saint Gregory the Illuminator.

At the foot of the altar, a prayer is said.  The Holy Father and His Beatitude then take their places before the sacred altar, from which the Gospel, carried in procession from the entrance of the Cathedral, is solemnly proclaimed.

The prayer service in the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral expresses the joy of the Armenian Apostolic Church at the visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.

III. Conclusion

The Office of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff is most grateful to all those who assisted in the publication of the present volume.

Thanks is first due to the Bishops of the Turkish Episcopal Conference: meeting in Istanbul on 18 September 2006, the members of the Conference provided general guidelines regarding the texts, languages and ritual expressions to be used.

A particular expression of gratitude is also due to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople for the fraternal cooperation shown in the preparation of the texts in English and in Greek for the Prayer Service of 29 November and the Divine Liturgy of 30 November.

Appreciation is also expressed to the authorities of the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral.

Finally, a word of thanks to the members of the Liturgical Commissions established for the occasion by the Bishops of Izmir and Istanbul.

The present volume will stand as testimony to the Pope’s love for the Turkish people, for the Sister Church of Constantinople, and in particular for the Catholic community in Turkey.  The celebration of the Eucharist and the preaching of the word of God by the Bishop of Rome to the communities of Ephesus and Istanbul are an encouragement and a gift which the Successor of Peter makes to the Church in Turkey, so that it will remain united in faith and love, in communion with its own Pastors and with the Roman Pontiff, and remain open to ecumenical dialogue, to interreligious dialogue and to preserving and promoting for all men, peace, liberty, social justice and moral values” (Nostra Aetate, 3).  †  Piero Marini


Pontiff Praises Eastern Churches

Expresses Hope for Unity With Orthodox

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI paid tribute to Eastern Christians, expressing his gratitude for their fidelity at the price of martyrdom.

The Pope said this when he visited the headquarters of the Congregation for Eastern Churches on Saturday as part of the dicastery's 90th anniversary celebrations.

He said: "Today the Pope gives thanks to Eastern Christians for their fidelity at the price of the shedding of blood -- admirable accounts which fill the pages of history even to the present-day martyrology!"

During the visit, the Holy Father publicly announced the appointment of a new prefect for this congregation: Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, who until recently served as undersecretary in the Vatican secretariat of state, overseeing the division of general affairs.

Archbishop Sandri succeeds Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, 76, who resigned for reasons of age.

Pope Benedict XV, whose pontificate lasted from 1914 to 1922, established the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

Benedict XVI said he took the name of a "Pope who dearly loved the East" because he wants his pontificate to be "a pilgrimage to the heart of the East."

The Holy Father told Eastern Christians that "he wants to stay by their side."

He reiterated "his profound appreciation for the Eastern Catholic Churches for their particular role as living witnesses of the origins."

"Without a continuous connection with the tradition of the origins," the Pope said, "there is no future for Christ's Church."

Esteem and affection

Benedict XVI added: "In a particular way, the Eastern Churches guard the echo of the first announcement of the Gospel; the most ancient memories of the signs performed by the Lord; the first beams of the paschal light, and the reverberations of the unquenchable Pentecost fire.

"Their spiritual legacy, rooted in the teachings of the apostles and the Fathers of the Church, has generated venerable liturgical, theological and disciplinary traditions, showing the ability of 'Christ's thought' to make fruitful cultures and history.

"It is for this reason that I, like my predecessors, feel esteem and affection for the Orthodox Churches: because we are joined by a particularly close bond. We have almost everything in common, and above all, we have in common the sincere hope for unity.

"From the bottom of my heart, I pray that this dream may soon come true."

The Congregation for Eastern Churches supports the Eastern Catholic Churches, helping them to grow, protecting their rights and maintaining in the universal Church the liturgical, spiritual and disciplinary patrimony of the East.

These Churches maintain the traditions and liturgies of the Orthodox Churches, but are set apart by their obedience to the Bishop of Rome.

The Vatican dicastery has authority over the following regions: Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula, Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, south Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestinian territories, Syria, Jordan and Turkey.

(c) Innovative Media, Inc.

Pontiff Extols  Thought Of

           St. John Chrysostom

Letter Marks 1,600th Anniversary of Saint's Birth

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says he hopes modern theologians will pay more attention to the teachings of the Fathers of the Church.

The Pope affirmed this in a letter written for the 16th centenary of the death of St. John Chrysostom (347-407) and made public today.

The letter was read this morning at the opening of an international congress, "St. John Chrysostom 1,600 Years After His Death," under way through Saturday at Rome's Augustinianum patristic institute.

"The life and doctrinal teaching of this saintly bishop and doctor ring out in every century," the Holy Father wrote, "and even today they still induce universal admiration. The Roman Pontiffs have always recognized in him a living source of wisdom for the Church and their interest in his teaching became more intense over the course of last century."

"During his 12 years of priestly ministry in the Antiochean Church, John distinguished himself for his capacity to interpret Scripture in a manner the faithful could understand," the Pope said. He also sought "to strengthen the unity of the Church [...] at a historical moment in which it was threatened both internally and externally. He rightly felt that unity among Christians depends above all on a correct understanding of the central mystery of the Church's faith: that of the Blessed Trinity and the incarnation of the divine Word."

Benedict XVI continued, "Having served the Church in Antioch as a priest and preacher for 12 years, John was consecrated bishop of Constantinople in 398, remaining there for five and a half years. In that role, he concerned himself with the reform of the clergy, encouraging priests by word and example to live in conformity with the Gospel."

St. John Chrysostom "tirelessly denounced the contrast that existed in the city between the extravagant wastefulness of the rich and the indigence of the poor," the papal letter affirmed. At the same time, he encouraged the wealthy "to welcome homeless people into their own houses." He also "stood out for his missionary zeal" and built hospitals for the sick.

East and West

Benedict XVI recalled how "since the fifth century, John Chrysostom has been venerated by the entire Church, Eastern and Western, for his courageous witness in defense of ecclesial faith and for his generous dedication to pastoral ministry."

He added, "Special mention must also be made of the extraordinary efforts undertaken by St. John Chrysostom to promote reconciliation and full communion between Christians of East and West. In particular, his contribution proved decisive in putting an end to the schism separating the See of Antioch from the See of Rome and from other Western Churches."

The Pope highlighted how "both in Antioch and Constantinople John spoke passionately of the unity of the Church throughout the world. [...] For John, the unity of the Church is rooted in Christ, the divine Word, who with his incarnation united himself to the Church as a head is united to its body."

Eucharistic unity

Benedict XVI mentioned that for the saint, "the ecclesial unity achieved in Christ finds unique expression in the Eucharist."

His "profound veneration" for this sacrament was "particularly nourished in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. In fact, one of the richest expressions of Eastern liturgy bears his name: 'The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom,'" the Pope recalled.

"With great profundity, John Chrysostom develops his ideas on the effects of sacramental communion in believers. [...] He tirelessly repeats that preparation for holy Communion must include penitence for sins and gratitude for the sacrifice Christ made for our salvation. Thus, he exhorts the faithful to participate fully and devotedly in the rites of Divine Liturgy and to receive holy Communion in the same way," the Pontiff said.

He continued: John Chrysostom "also draws the moral consequences" from his contemplation of the Eucharistic mystery, reminding people "that communion with the Body and Blood of Christ obliges them to offer material assistance to the poor and hungry who live among them."

The Holy Father said he hopes this centenary may be a good occasion to increase studies on the saint, "recovering his teachings and encouraging his devotion."

"May the Fathers of the Church," the Pope concluded, "become a stable point of reference for all Church theologians." And may theologians themselves discover "a renewed commitment to recover the heritage of wisdom of the holy Fathers. The result can only be a vital enrichment of their ideas, even on the problems of our own times." (c) Innovative Media, Inc.


Statement of Joint Catholic-Orthodox Commission

"Ecclesial Communion, Conciliarity and Authority"

RAVENNA, Italy, NOV. 15, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the final document of the plenary assembly of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, held Oct. 8-14 in Ravenna. The statement, which was released today, is titled "Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Ecclesial Communion, Conciliarity and Authority."

* * *


1. "That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (Jn 17, 21). We give thanks to the triune God who has gathered us -- members of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church -- so that we might respond together in obedience to this prayer of Jesus. We are conscious that our dialogue is restarting in a world that has changed profoundly in recent times. The processes of secularization and globalization, and the challenge posed by new encounters between Christians and believers of other religions, require that the disciples of Christ give witness to their faith, love and hope with a new urgency. May the Spirit of the risen Lord empower our hearts and minds to bear the fruits of unity in the relationship between our Churches, so that together we may serve the unity and peace of the whole human family. May the same Spirit lead us to the full expression of the mystery of ecclesial communion, that we gratefully acknowledge as a wonderful gift of God to the world, a mystery whose beauty radiates especially in the holiness of the saints, to which all are called.

2. Following the plan adopted at its first meeting in Rhodes in 1980, the Joint Commission began by addressing the mystery of ecclesial koinônia in the light of the mystery of the Holy Trinity and of the Eucharist. This enabled a deeper understanding of ecclesial communion, both at the level of the local community around its bishop, and at the level of relations between bishops and between the local Churches over which each presides in communion with the One Church of God extending across the universe (Munich Document, 1982). In order to clarify the nature of communion, the Joint Commission underlined the relationship which exists between faith, the sacraments -- especially the three sacraments of Christian initiation -- and the unity of the Church (Bari Document, 1987). Then by studying the sacrament of Order in the sacramental structure of the Church, the Commissionindicated clearly the role of apostolic succession as the guarantee of the koinônia of the whole Church and of its continuity with the Apostles in every time and place (Valamo Document, 1988). From 1990 until 2000, the main subject discussed by the Commission was that of "uniatism" (Balamand Document, 1993; Baltimore, 2000), a subject to which we shall give further consideration in the near future. Now we take up the theme raised at the end of the Valamo Document, and reflect upon ecclesial communion, conciliarity and authority.

3. On the basis of these common affirmations of our faith, we must now draw the ecclesiological and canonical consequences which flow from the sacramental nature of the Church. Since the Eucharist, in the light of the Trinitarian mystery, constitutes the criterion of ecclesial life as a whole, how do institutional structures visibly reflect the mystery of this koinônia? Since the one and holy Church is realised both in each local Church celebrating the Eucharist and at the same time in the koinônia of all the Churches, how does the life of the Churches manifest this sacramental structure?

4. Unity and multiplicity, the relationship between the one Church and the many local Churches, that constitutive relationship of the Church, also poses the question of the relationship between the authority inherent in every ecclesial institution and the conciliarity which flows from the mystery of the Church as communion. As the terms "authority" and "conciliarity" cover a very wide area, we shall begin by defining the way we understand them.[1]

1. The Foundations of Conciliarity and of Authority

1. Conciliarity

5. The term conciliarity or synodality comes from the word "council" (synodos in Greek, concilium in Latin), which primarily denotes a gathering of bishops exercising a particular responsibility. It is also possible, however, to take the term in a more comprehensive sense referring to all the members of the Church (cfr. the Russian term sobornost ). Accordingly we shall speak first of all of conciliarity as signifying that each member of the Body of Christ, by virtue of baptism, has his or her place and proper responsibility in eucharistic koinônia ( communio in Latin). Conciliarity reflects the Trinitarian mystery and finds therein its ultimate foundation. The three persons of the Holy Trinity are "enumerated", as St Basil the Great says (On the Holy Spirit , 45), without the designation as "second" or "third" person implying any diminution or subordination. Similarly, there also exists an order (taxis) among local Churches, which however does not imply inequality in their ecclesial nature.

6. The Eucharist manifests the Trinitarian koinônia actualized in the faithful as an organic unity of several members each of whom has a charism, a service or a proper ministry, necessary in their variety and diversity for the edification of all in the one ecclesial Body of Christ (cfr. 1 Cor 12, 4-30). All are called, engaged and held accountable -- each in a different though no less real manner -- in the common accomplishment of the actions which, through the Holy Spirit, make present in the Church the ministry of Christ, "the way, the truth and the life" (Jn 14, 6). In this way, the mystery of salvific koinônia with the Blessed Trinity is realized in humankind.

7. The whole community and each person in it bears the "conscience of the Church" (ekkesiastikè syneidesis), as Greek theology calls it, the sensus fidelium in Latin terminology. By virtue of Baptism and Confirmation (Chrismation) each member of the Church exercises a form of authority in the Body of Christ. In this sense, all the faithful (and not just the bishops) are responsible for the faith professed at their Baptism. It is our common teaching that the people of God, having received "the anointing which comes from the Holy One" (1 Jn 2, 20 and 27), in communion with their pastors, cannot err in matters of faith (cfr. Jn 16, 13).

8. In proclaiming the Church's faith and in clarifying the norms of Christian conduct, the bishops have a specific task by divine institution. "As successors of the Apostles, the bishops are responsible for communion in the apostolic faith and for fidelity to the demands of a life in keeping with the Gospel" (Valamo Document, n. 40).

9. Councils are the principal way in which communion among bishops is exercised (cfr. Valamo Document, n. 52). For "attachment to the apostolic communion binds all the bishops together linking the épiskopè of the local Churches to the College of the Apostles. They too form a college rooted by the Spirit in the 'once for all' of the apostolic group, the unique witness to the faith. This means not only that they should be united among themselves in faith, charity, mission, reconciliation, but that they have in common the same responsibility and the same service to the Church" (Munich Document, III, 4).

10. This conciliar dimension of the Church's life belongs to its deep-seated nature. That is to say, it is founded in the will of Christ for his people (cfr. Mt 18, 15-20), even if its canonical realizations are of necessity also determined by history and by the social, political and cultural context. Defined thus, the conciliar dimension of the Church is to be found at the three levels of ecclesial communion, the local, the regional and the universal: at the local level of the diocese entrusted to the bishop; at the regional level of a group of local Churches with their bishops who "recognize who is the first amongst themselves" (Apostolic Canon 34); and at the universal level, where those who are first (protoi ) in the various regions, together with all the bishops, cooperate in that which concerns the totality of the Church. At this level also, the protoi must recognize who is the first amongst themselves.

11. The Church exists in many and different places, which manifests its catholicity. Being "catholic", it is a living organism, the Body of Christ. Each local Church, when in communion with the other local Churches, is a manifestation of the one and indivisible Church of God. To be "catholic" therefore means to be in communion with the one Church of all times and of all places. That is why the breaking of eucharistic communion means the wounding of one of the essential characteristics of the Church, its catholicity.

2. Authority

12. When we speak of authority, we are referring to exousia, as it is described in the New Testament. The authority of the Church comes from its Lord and Head, Jesus Christ. Having received his authority from God the Father, Christ after his Resurrection shared it, through the Holy Spirit, with the Apostles (cfr. Jn 20, 22). Through the Apostles it was transmitted to the bishops, their successors, and through them to the whole Church. Jesus Christ our Lord exercised this authority in various ways whereby, until its eschatological fulfilment (cfr. 1 Cor 15, 24-28), the Kingdom of God manifests itself to the world: by teaching (cfr. Mt 5, 2; Lk 5, 3); by performing miracles (cfr. Mk 1, 30-34; Mt 14, 35-36); by driving out impure spirits (cfr. Mk 1, 27; Lk 4, 35-36); in the forgiveness of sins (cfr. Mk 2, 10; Lk 5, 24); and in leading his disciples in the ways of salvation (cfr. Mt 16, 24). In conformity with the mandate received from Christ (cfr. Mt 28, 18-20), the exercise of the authority proper to the apostles and afterwards to the bishops includes the proclamation and the teaching of the Gospel, sanctification through the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, and the pastoral direction of those who believe (cfr. Lk 10, 16).

13. Authority in the Church belongs to Jesus Christ himself, the one Head of the Church (cfr. Eph 1, 22; 5, 23). By his Holy Spirit, the Church as his Body shares in his authority (cfr. Jn 20, 22-23). Authority in the Church has as its goal the gathering of the whole of humankind into Jesus Christ (cfr. Eph 1,10; Jn 11, 52). The authority linked with the grace received in ordination is not the private possession of those who receive it nor something delegated from the community; rather, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit destined for the service (diakonia) of the community and never exercised outside of it. Its exercise includes the participation of the whole community, the bishop being in the Church and the Church in the bishop (cfr. St Cyprian, Ep. 66, 8).

14. The exercise of authority accomplished in the Church, in the name of Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, must be, in all its forms and at all levels, a service (diakonia ) of love, as was that of Christ (cfr. Mk 10, 45; Jn 13, 1-16). The authority of which we are speaking, since it expresses divine authority, cannot subsist in the Church except in the love between the one who exercises it and those subject to it. It is, therefore, an authority without domination, without physical or moral coercion. Since it is a participation in the exousia of the crucified and exalted Lord, to whom has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (cfr. Mt 28, 18), it can and must call for obedience. At the same time, because of the Incarnation and the Cross, it is radically different from that of leaders of nations and of the great of this world (cfr. Lk 22, 25-27). While this authority is certainly entrusted to people who, because of weakness and sin, are often tempted to abuse it, nevertheless by its very nature the evangelical identification between authority and service constitutes a fundamental norm for the Church. For Christians, to rule is to serve. The exercise and spiritual efficacy of ecclesial authority are thereby assured through free consent and voluntary co-operation. At a personal level, this translates into obedience to the authority of the Church in order to follow Christ who was lovingly obedient to the Father even unto death and death on a Cross (cfr. Phil 2, 8).

15. Authority within the Church is founded upon the Word of God, present and alive in the community of the disciples. Scripture is the revealed Word of God, as the Church, through the Holy Spirit present and active within it, has discerned it in the living Tradition received from the Apostles. At the heart of this Tradition is the Eucharist (cfr. 1 Cor 10, 16-17; 11, 23-26). The authority of Scripture derives from the fact that it is the Word of God which, read in the Church and by the Church, transmits the Gospel of salvation. Through Scripture, Christ addresses the assembled community and the heart of each believer. The Church, through the Holy Spirit present within it, authentically interprets Scripture, responding to the needs of times and places. The constant custom of the Councils to enthrone the Gospels in the midst of the assembly both attests the presence of Christ in his Word, which is the necessary point of reference for all their discussions and decisions, and at the same time affirms the authority of the Church to interpret this Word of God.

16. In his divine Economy, God wills that his Church should have a structure oriented towards salvation. To this essential structure belong the faith professed and the sacraments celebrated in the apostolic succession. Authority in the ecclesial communion is linked to this essential structure: its exercise is regulated by the canons and statutes of the Church. Some of these regulations may be differently applied according to the needs of ecclesial communion in different times and places, provided that the essential structure of the Church is always respected. Thus, just as communion in the sacraments presupposes communion in the same faith (cfr. Bari Document, nn.29-33), so too, in order for there to be full ecclesial communion, there must be, between our Churches, reciprocal recognition of canonical legislations in their legitimate diversities.

II. The threefold actualization of Conciliarity and Authority

17. Having pointed out the foundation of conciliarity and of authority in the Church, and having noted the complexity of the content of these terms, we must now reply to the following questions: How do institutional elements of the Church visibly express and serve the mystery of koinônia? How do the canonical structures of the Churches express their sacramental life? To this end we distinguished between three levels of ecclesial institutions: that of the local Church around its bishop; that of a region taking in several neighbouring local Churches; and that of the whole inhabited earth (oikoumene ) which embraces all the local Churches.

1. The Local Level

18. The Church of God exists where there is a community gathered together in the Eucharist, presided over, directly or through his presbyters, by a bishop legitimately ordained into the apostolic succession, teaching the faith received from the Apostles, in communion with the other bishops and their Churches. The fruit of this Eucharist and this ministry is to gather into an authentic communion of faith, prayer, mission, fraternal love and mutual aid, all those who have received the Spirit of Christ in Baptism. This communion is the frame in which all ecclesial authority is exercised. Communion is the criterion for its exercise.

19. Each local Church has as its mission to be, by the grace of God, a place where God is served and honoured, where the Gospel is announced, where the sacraments are celebrated, where the faithful strive to alleviate the world's misery, and where each believer can find salvation. It is the light of the world (cfr. Mt 5, 14-16), the leaven (cfr. Mt 13, 33), the priestly community of God (cfr. 1 Pet 2, 5 and 9). The canonical norms which govern it aim at ensuring this mission.

20. By virtue of that very Baptism which made him or her a member of Christ, each baptized person is called, according to the gifts of the one Holy Spirit, to serve within the community (cfr. 1 Cor 12, 4-27). Thus through communion, whereby all the members are at the service of each other, the local Church appears already "synodal" or "conciliar" in its structure. This "synodality" does not show itself only in the relationships of solidarity, mutual assistance and complementarity which the various ordained ministries have among themselves. Certainly, the presbyterium is the council of the bishop (cfr. St Ignatius of Antioch, To the Trallians, 3), and the deacon is his "right arm" ( Didascalia Apostolorum, 2, 28, 6), so that, according to the recommendation of St Ignatius of Antioch, everything be done in concert (cfr. To the Ephesians 6). Synodality, however, also involves all the members of the community in obedience to the bishop, who is the protos and head (kephale) of the local Church, required by ecclesial communion. In keeping with Eastern and Western traditions, the active participation of the laity, both men and women, of monastics and consecrated persons, is effected in the diocese and the parish through many forms of service and mission.

21. The charisms of the members of the community have their origin in the one Holy Spirit, and are directed to the good of all. This fact sheds light on both the demands and the limits of the authority of each one in the Church. There should be neither passivity nor substitution of functions, neither negligence nor domination of anyone by another. All charisms and ministries in the Church converge in unity under the ministry of the bishop, who serves the communion of the local Church. All are called to be renewed by the Holy Spirit in the sacraments and to respond in constant repentance (metanoia), so that their communion in truth and charity is ensured.

2. The Regional Level

22. Since the Church reveals itself to be catholic in the synaxis of the local Church, this catholicity must truly manifest itself in communion with the other Churches which confess the same apostolic faith and share the same basic ecclesial structure, beginning with those close at hand in virtue of their common responsibility for mission in that region which is theirs (cfr. Munich Document, III, 3, and Valamo Document, nn.52 and 53). Communion among Churches is expressed in the ordination of bishops. This ordination is conferred according to canonical order by three or more bishops, or at least two (cfr. Nicaea I, Canon 4), who act in the name of the episcopal body and of the people of God, having themselves received their ministry from the Holy Spirit by the imposition of hands in the apostolic succession. When this is accomplished in conformity with the canons, communion among Churches in the true faith, sacraments and ecclesial life is ensured, as well as living communion with previous generations.

23. Such effective communion among several local Churches, each being the Catholic Church in a particular place, has been expressed by certain practices: the participation of the bishops of neighbouring sees at the ordination of a bishop to the local Church; the invitation to a bishop from another Church to concelebrate at the synaxis of the local Church; the welcome extended to the faithful from these other Churches to partake of the eucharistic table; the exchange of letters on the occasion of an ordination; and the provision of material assistance.

24. A canon accepted in the East as in the West, expresses the relationship between the local Churches of a region: "The bishops of each province (ethnos) must recognize the one who is first (protos) amongst them, and consider him to be their head (kephale), and not do anything important without his consent (gnome); each bishop may only do what concerns his own diocese (paroikia) and its dependent territories. But the first (protos) cannot do anything without the consent of all. For in this way concord (homonoia ) will prevail, and God will be praised through the Lord in the Holy Spirit" (Apostolic Canon 34).

25. This norm, which re-emerges in several forms in canonical tradition, applies to all the relations between the bishops of a region, whether those of a province, a metropolitanate, or a patriarchate. Its practical application may be found in the synods or the councils of a province, region or patriarchate. The fact that the composition of a regional synod is always essentially episcopal, even when it includes other members of the Church, reveals the nature of synodal authority. Only bishops have a deliberative voice. The authority of a synod is based on the nature of the episcopal ministry itself, and manifests the collegial nature of the episcopate at the service of the communion of Churches.

26. A synod (or council) in itself implies the participation of all the bishops of a region. It is governed by the principle of consensus and concord (homonoia), which is signified by eucharistic concelebration, as is implied by the final doxology of the above-mentioned Apostolic Canon 34. The fact remains, however, that each bishop in his pastoral care is judge, and is responsible before God for the affairs of his own diocese (cfr. Cyprian, Ep. 55, 21); thus he is the guardian of the catholicity of his local Church, and must be always careful to promote catholic communion with other Churches.

27. It follows that a regional synod or council does not have any authority over other ecclesiastical regions. Nevertheless, the exchange of information and consultations between the representatives of several synods are a manifestation of catholicity, as well as of that fraternal mutual assistance and charity which ought to be the rule between all the local Churches, for the greater common benefit. Each bishop is responsible for the whole Church together with all his colleagues in one and the same apostolic mission.

28. In this manner several ecclesiastical provinces have come to strengthen their links of common responsibility. This was one of the factors giving rise to the patriarchates in the history of our Churches. Patriarchal synods are governed by the same ecclesiological principles and the same canonical norms as provincial synods.

29. In subsequent centuries, both in the East and in the West, certain new configurations of communion between local Churches have developed. New patriarchates and autocephalous Churches have been founded in the Christian East, and in the Latin Church there has recently emerged a particular pattern of grouping of bishops, the Episcopal Conferences. These are not, from an ecclesiological standpoint, merely administrative subdivisions: they express the spirit of communion in the Church, while at the same time respecting the diversity of human cultures.

30. In fact, regional synodality, whatever its contours and canonical regulation, demonstrates that the Church of God is not a communion of persons or local Churches cut off from their human roots. Because it is the community of salvation and because this salvation is "the restoration of creation" (cfr. St Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., 1, 36, 1), it embraces the human person in everything which binds himor her to human reality as created by God. The Church is not just a collection of individuals; it is made up of communities with different cultures, histories and social structures.

31. In the grouping of local Churches at the regional level, catholicity appears in its true light. It is the expression of the presence of salvation not in an undifferentiated universe but in humankind as God created it and comes to save it. In the mystery of salvation, human nature is at the same time both assumed in its fullness and cured of what sin has infused into it by way of self-sufficiency, pride, distrust of others, aggressiveness, jealousy, envy, falsehood and hatred. Ecclesial koinônia is the gift by which all humankind is joined together, in the Spirit of the risen Lord. This unity, created by the Spirit, far from lapsing into uniformity, calls for and thus preserves -- and, in a certain way, enhances -- diversity and particularity.

3. The Universal Level

32. Each local Church is in communion not only with neighbouring Churches, but with the totality of the local Churches, with those now present in the world, those which have been since the beginning, and those which will be in the future, and with the Church already in glory. According to the will of Christ, the Church is one and indivisible, the same always and in every place. Both sides confess, in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, that the Church is one and catholic. Its catholicity embraces not only the diversity of human communities but also their fundamental unity.

33. It is clear, therefore, that one and the same faith is to be confessed and lived out in all the local Churches, the same unique Eucharist is to be celebrated everywhere, and one and the same apostolic ministry is to be at work in all the communities. A local Church cannot modify the Creed, formulated by the ecumenical Councils, although the Church ought always "to give suitable answers to new problems, answers based on the Scriptures and in accord and essential continuity with the previous expressions of dogmas" (Bari Document, n.29). Equally, a local Church cannot change a fundamental point regarding the form of ministry by a unilateral decision, and no local Church can celebrate the Eucharist in wilful separation from other local Churches without seriously affecting ecclesial communion. In all of these things one touches on the bond of communion itself -- thus, on the very being of the Church.

34. It is because of this communion that all the Churches, through canons, regulate everything relating to the Eucharist and the sacraments, the ministry and ordination, and the handing on (paradosis) and teaching (didaskalia) of the faith. It is clear why in this domain canonical rules and disciplinary norms are needed.

35. In the course of history, when serious problems arose affecting the universal communion and concord between Churches -- in regard either to the authentic interpretation of the faith, or to ministries and their relationship to the whole Church, or to the common discipline which fidelity to the Gospel requires -- recourse was made to Ecumenical Councils. These Councils were ecumenical not just because they assembled together bishops from all regions and particularly those of the five major sees, Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, according to the ancient order (taxis). It was also because their solemn doctrinal decisions and their common faith formulations, especially on crucial points, are binding for all the Churches and all the faithful, for all times and all places. This is why the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils remain normative.

36. The history of the Ecumenical Councils shows what are to be considered their special characteristics. This matter needs to be studied further in our future dialogue, taking account of the evolution of ecclesial structures during recent centuries in the East and the West.

37. The ecumenicity of the decisions of a Council is recognized through a process of reception of either long or short duration, according to which the people of God as a whole -- by means of reflection, discernment, discussion and prayer -- acknowledge in these decisions the one apostolic faith of the local Churches, which has always been the same and of which the bishops are the teachers (didaskaloi) and the guardians. This process of reception is differently interpreted in East and West according to their respective canonical traditions.

38. Conciliarity or synodality involves, therefore, much more than the assembled bishops. It involves also their Churches. The former are bearers of and give voice to the faith of the latter. The bishops' decisions have to be received in the life of the Churches, especially in their liturgical life. Each Ecumenical Council received as such, in the full and proper sense, is, accordingly, a manifestation of and service to the communion of the whole Church.

39. Unlike diocesan and regional synods, an ecumenical council is not an "institution" whose frequency can be regulated by canons; it is rather an "event", a kairos inspired by the Holy Spirit who guides the Church so as to engender within it the institutions which it needs and which respond to its nature. This harmony between the Church and the councils is so profound that, even after the break between East and West which rendered impossible the holding of ecumenical councils in the strict sense of the term, both Churches continued to hold councils whenever serious crises arose. These councils gathered together the bishops of local Churches in communion with the See of Rome or, although understood in a different way, with the See of Constantinople, respectively. In the Roman Catholic Church, some of these councils held in the West were regarded as ecumenical. This situation, which obliged both sides of Christendom to convoke councils proper to each of them, favoured dissentions which contributed to mutual estrangement. The means which will allow the re-establishment of ecumenical consensus must be sought out.

40. During the first millennium, the universal communion of the Churches in the ordinary course of events was maintained through fraternal relations between the bishops. These relations, among the bishops themselves, between the bishops and their respective protoi , and also among the protoi themselves in the canonical order (taxis) witnessed by the ancient Church, nourished and consolidated ecclesial communion. History records the consultations, letters and appeals to major sees, especially to that of Rome, which vividly express the solidarity that koinônia creates. Canonical provisions such as the inclusion of the names of the bishops of the principal sees in the diptychs and the communication of the profession of faith to the other patriarchs on the occasion of elections, are concrete expressions of koinônia.

41. Both sides agree that this canonical taxis was recognised by all in the era of the undivided Church. Further, they agree that Rome, as the Church that "presides in love" according to the phrase of St Ignatius of Antioch (To the Romans, Prologue), occupied the first place in the taxis, and that the bishop of Rome was therefore the protos among the patriarchs. They disagree, however, on the interpretation of the historical evidence from this era regarding the prerogatives of the bishop of Rome as protos , a matter that was already understood in different ways in the first millennium.

42. Conciliarity at the universal level, exercised in the ecumenical councils, implies an active role of the bishop of Rome, as protos of the bishops of the major sees, in the consensus of the assembled bishops. Although the bishop of Rome did not convene the ecumenical councils of the early centuries and never personally presided over them, he nevertheless was closely involved in the process of decision-making by the councils.

43. Primacy and conciliarity are mutually interdependent. That is why primacy at the different levels of the life of the Church, local, regional and universal, must always be considered in the context of conciliarity, and conciliarity likewise in the context of primacy.

Concerning primacy at the different levels, we wish to affirm the following points:

1 Primacy at all levels is a practice firmly grounded in the canonical tradition of the Church.

2 While the fact of primacy at the universal level is accepted by both East and West, there are differences of understanding with regard to the manner in which it is to be exercised, and also with regard to its scriptural and theological foundations.

44. In the history of the East and of the West, at least until the ninth century, a series of prerogatives was recognised, always in the context of conciliarity, according to the conditions of the times, for the protos or kephale at each of the established ecclesiastical levels: locally, for the bishop as protos of his diocese with regard to his presbyters and people; regionally, for the protos of each metropolis with regard to the bishops of his province, and for the protos of each of the five patriarchates, with regard to the metropolitans of each circumscription; and universally, for the bishop of Rome as protos among the patriarchs. This distinction of levels does not diminish the sacramental equality of every bishop or the catholicity of each local Church.

45. It remains for the question of the role of the bishop of Rome in the communion of all the Churches to be studied in greater depth. What is the specific function of the bishop of the "first see" in an ecclesiology of koinônia and in view of what we have said on conciliarity and authority in the present text? How should the teaching of the first and second Vatican councils on the universal primacy be understood and lived in the light of the ecclesial practice of the first millennium? These are crucial questions for our dialogue and for our hopes of restoring full communion between us.

46. We, the members of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, are convinced that the above statement on ecclesial communion, conciliarity and authority represents positive and significant progress in our dialogue, and that it provides a firm basis for future discussion of the question of primacy at the universal level in the Church. We are conscious that many difficult questions remain to be clarified, but we hope that, sustained by the prayer of Jesus "That they may all be one … so that the world may believe" (Jn 17, 21), and in obedience to the Holy Spirit, we can build upon the agreement already reached. Reaffirming and confessing "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph 4, 5), we give glory to God the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who has gathered us together.

* * *

[1] Orthodox participants felt it important to emphasize that the use of the terms "the Church", "the universal Church", "the indivisible Church" and "the Body of Christ" in this document and in similar documents produced by the Joint Commission in no way undermines the self-understanding of the Orthodox Church as the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, of which the Nicene Creed speaks. From the Catholic point of view, the same self-awareness applies: the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church 'subsists in the Catholic Church' (Lumen Gentium, 8); this does not exclude acknowledgement that elements of the true Church are present outside the Catholic communion.

(c) Innovative Media, Inc.


Benedict XVI Praises Wisdom of Eastern Christianity

Pontifical Oriental Institute Marks 90th Anniversary

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 6, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The wisdom of Eastern Christianity is a heritage that the Church values, said Benedict XVI upon receiving a delegation from the Pontifical Oriental Institute.

The Pope received 280 members of the institute today, on the 90th anniversary of its foundation by Pope Benedict XV in 1917.

"The time of that Pope was a time of war," said Benedict XVI, "while he himself worked for peace. To achieve peace he launched various appeals and even drew up [...] a plan for peace, a detailed plan which unfortunately proved unsuccessful."

Noting his own "particular bond" with Benedict XV, Benedict XVI explained how his predecessor favored the Eastern Churches, which came to "enjoy a regime more in keeping with their traditions, under the gaze of the Roman Pontiffs who have never ceased to show their concern with concrete gestures of support."

These communities have known "difficult periods" and "harsh trials," said the Pope. "Though physically distant from Rome, they have always remained close through their faithfulness to the See of Peter. However, their progress and their firmness in difficulties would have been unthinkable without the constant support they were able to draw from that oasis of peace and study that is the Pontifical Oriental Institute, a meeting point for scholars, professors, writers and publishers, some of the greatest experts on the Christian East."

The Holy Father specifically praised the institute's library, "justly famous throughout the world" and "one of the best on the Christian East," saying he was committed to expanding it still further "as a sign of the interest the Church of Rome has in knowledge of the Christian East, and as a means to eliminate any prejudices which could harm the cordial and harmonious coexistence of Christians."

"I am, in fact, convinced," he added, "that supporting academic study also has an effective ecumenical value, because drawing from the heritage of wisdom of the Christian East enriches everyone."

"The Pontifical Oriental Institute," Benedict XVI concluded, "represents an outstanding example of what Christian wisdom has to offer, both to people who wish to acquire an ever more accurate knowledge of the Eastern Churches, and to those seeking a more profound orientation of life according to the Spirit, a subject on which the Christian East can justly boast a rich tradition."

© Innovative Media, Inc.






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