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Relations between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church

The Vatican, June 29, 1995

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing”(Eph 1:3).

1. We also thank God for this brotherly meeting of ours which took place in his name and with the firm intention of obeying his will that his disciples be one (Jn 17:21). Our meeting has followed other important events which have seen our Churches declare their desire to relegate the excommunications of the past to oblivion and to set out on the way to re-establishing full communion. Our venerable predecessors Athenagoras I and Paul VI became pilgrims to Jerusalem in order to meet in the Lord’s name, precisely where the Lord, by his Death and Resurrection, brought humanity forgiveness and salvation. Subsequently, their meetings at the Phanar and in Rome have initiated this new tradition of fraternal visits in order to foster a true dialogue of charity and truth. This exchange of visits was repeated during the ministry of Patriarch Dimitrios, when, among other things, the theological dialogue was formally opened. Our new-found brotherhood in the name of the one Lord has led us to frank discussion, a dialogue that seeks understanding and unity.

2. This dialogue – through the Joint International Commission – has proved fruitful and has made substantial progress. A common sacramental conception of the Church has emerged, sustained and passed on in time by the apostolic succession. In our Churches, the apostolic succession is fundamental to the sanctification and unity of the People of God. Considering that in every local Church the mystery of divine love is realized and that this is how the Church of Christ shows forth its active presence in each one of them, the Joint Commission has been able to declare that our Churches recognize one another as Sister Churches, responsible together for safeguarding the one Church of God, in fidelity to the divine plan, and in an altogether special way with regard to unity.

We thank the Lord of the Church from the bottom of our hearts because these affirmations we have made together not only hasten the way to solving the existing difficulties, but henceforth enable Catholics and Orthodox to give a common witness of faith.

3. This is particularly appropriate on the eve of the third millennium when, 2,000 years after the birth of Christ, all Christians are preparing to make an examination of conscience on the reality of his proclamation of salvation in history and among men.

We will celebrate this Great Jubilee on our pilgrimage towards full unity and towards that blessed day, which we pray is not far off, when we will be able to share the same bread and the same cup, in the one Eucharist of the Lord.

Let us invite our faithful to make this spiritual pilgrimage together towards the Jubilee. Reflection, prayer, dialogue, reciprocal forgiveness and mutual fraternal love will bring us closer to the Lord and will help us better to understand his will for the Church and for humanity.

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