Monday, November 30, 2009


In his greeting to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I on this Feast of St. Andrew (patron of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and brother of Peter), Pope Benedict XVI offered the following thoughts on the exercise of the ministry of Peter in the Church:

[O]penness [to one another] has guided the work of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue, which held its eleventh plenary session in Cyprus last month. The meeting was marked by a spirit of solemn purpose and a warm sentiment of closeness. I extend once again my heartfelt gratitude to the Church of Cyprus for its most generous welcome and hospitality. It is a source of great encouragement that despite some difficulties and misunderstandings all the Churches involved in the International Commission have expressed their intention to continue the dialogue.

The theme of the plenary session, The Role of the Bishop of Rome in the Communion of the Church in the First Millennium, is certainly complex, and will require extensive study and patient dialogue if we are to aspire to a shared integration of the traditions of East and West. The Catholic Church understands the Petrine ministry as a gift of the Lord to His Church. This ministry should not be interpreted in the perspective of power, but within an ecclesiology of communion, as a service to unity in truth and charity. The Bishop of the Church of Rome, which presides in charity (Saint Ignatius of Antioch), is understood to be the Servus Servorum Dei ["Servant of the servants of God"] (Saint Gregory the Great). Thus, as my venerable predecessor the Servant of God Pope John Paul II wrote and I reiterated on the occasion of my visit to the Phanar in November 2006, it is a question of seeking together, inspired by the model of the first millennium, the forms in which the ministry of the Bishop of Rome may accomplish a service of love recognized by one and all (cf. Ut Unum Sint, 95). Let us therefore ask God to bless us and may the Holy Spirit guide us along this difficult yet promising path.

Yet even as we make this journey towards full communion, we should already offer common witness by working together in the service of humanity, especially in defending the dignity of the human person, in affirming fundamental ethical values, in promoting justice and peace, and in responding to the suffering that continues to afflict our world, particularly hunger, poverty, illiteracy, and the inequitable distribution of resources.

The direction of this Commission is one of coming to understand that the role of the Bishop of Rome has not always been, in the course of 2 millennia, what it is today. There are fluctuations and developments, enrichments and setbacks, for better or for worse. The crucial thing is to determine the essentials of the Petrine ministry in the Church, knowing that cast in different contexts they can still be properly preserved and exercised.

The goal of all ecumenical dialogue is precisely this: to find, together, the essentials that must be recognized, and strive to present them in ways that allow for agreement between brothers and sisters, and restoration of unity in the family of the Faith. We seek together to fulfill the will of Jesus that we be one, united in Him and in one another. May Andrew and Peter be reunited soon with us all!

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