An Encouraging Letter

While I was digging around for my quotes for Christmas, I stumbled upon this very interesting and encouraging letter from Pope Benedict to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. It was sent on Nov. 30, the feast day of St. Andrew, from whom the Constantinopolitan see claims to derive its apostolic authority, but as I found it around Christmas time I wanted to put off sharing it until after Epiphany. I would encourage you to read the whole document (it isn’t very long) by following the link above, but the following excerpt gives a good feel for the tenor of the letter:

In a world marked by growing interdependence and solidarity, we are called to proclaim with renewed conviction the truth of the Gospel and to present the Risen Lord as the answer to the deepest questions and spiritual aspirations of the men and women of our day.

If we are to succeed in this great task, we need to continue our progress along the path towards full communion, demonstrating that we have already united our efforts for a common witness to the Gospel before the people of our day. For this reason I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Your Holiness and to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the generous hospitality offered last October on the island of Rhodes to the Delegates of the Catholic Episcopal Conferences of Europe who came together with representatives of the Orthodox Churches in Europe for the Second Catholic-Orthodox Forum on the theme “Church-State Relations: Theological and Historical Perspectives”.

Your Holiness, I am following attentively your wise efforts for the good of Orthodoxy and for the promotion of Christian values in many international contexts. Assuring you of a remembrance in my prayers on this Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, I renew my good wishes for peace, well-being and abundant spiritual blessings to you and to all the faithful.

On the one hand, I realize that these sorts of political niceties are probably exchanged with shocking regularity between these two sees—not to mention other various Christian primates. Yet, on the other hand, having directed so much of my academic pursuits toward the late medieval period (when mutual excommunications were flying, Catholic were sacking Constantinople, and the Orthodox populous were rioting in response to overly-conciliatory plans for reunion) it seems to me that even political nicety, however devoid of substance it may or may not be, is a considerable step for these two great, historic churches.

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