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Sunday, September 25, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 24 SEP 2011 (VIS) - At 5.1.5 p.m. today the Holy Father met with fifteen representatives from the Orthodox Churches in Germany gathered in the main hall of the Seminary of Freiburg im Breisgau. Germany has a total of 467 Byzantine Orthodox communities with some 1,300,000 faithful belonging to various autocephalous Churches.

Having greeted Metropolitan Augoustinos, president of the Orthodox Episcopal Conference in Germany, and thanked him for his words, "so full of confidence", the Pope reaffirmed that "among Christian Churches and communities, the Orthodox are theologically closest to us; Catholics and Orthodox both have the same basic structure inherited from the ancient Church. So we may hope that the day is not too far away when we may once again celebrate the Eucharist together.

"With interest and sympathy the Catholic Church follows the development of Orthodox communities in Western Europe, which in recent decades have grown remarkably", the Pope added. He then went on to express his satisfaction at "the increase of pan-Orthodox co-operation, which has made significant progress in recent years. ... May the work of these episcopal conferences strengthen the bond between the Orthodox Churches and hasten the progress of efforts to establish a pan-Orthodox council".

On the subject of dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox, the Holy Father highlighted the importance of continuing efforts "to clarify theological differences. ... The resolution of these questions is indispensable for restoration of the full unity that we hope and pray for. Above all it is on the question of primacy that our continuing efforts towards a correct understanding must be focused. Here the ideas put forward by John Paul II in the Encyclical 'Ut Unum Sint' on the distinction between the nature and form of the exercise of primacy can yield further fruitful discussion points".

He also expressed his appreciation for "the work of the Mixed International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. ... The results so far obtained allow us to grow in mutual understanding and to draw closer to one another", he said.

"In the present climate, in which many would like, as it were, to 'liberate' public life from God, the Christian Churches in Germany - including Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians - are walking side by side along the path of peaceful witness for understanding and solidarity among peoples, on the basis of their faith in the one God and Father of all. At the same time they continue to place the miracle of God's incarnation at the centre of their proclamation. Realising that on this mystery all human dignity depends, they speak up jointly for the protection of human life from conception to natural death".

In closing, Pope Benedict reiterated how "faith in God, the Creator of life, and unconditional adherence to the dignity of every human being strengthen faithful Christians vigorously to oppose every manipulative and selective intervention in the area of human life. Knowing too the value of marriage and the family, we as Christians attach great importance to defending the integrity and the uniqueness of marriage between one man and one woman from any kind of misinterpretation. Here the common engagement of Christians, including many Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians, makes a valuable contribution to building up a society equipped for the future, in which the human person is given the respect which is his due".
PV-GERMANY/ VIS 20110925 (580)

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