Benedict XVI Tells Alexy II the Times Urge Haste

By Inmaculada Álvarez

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 6, 2008 ( Benedict XVI sent a personal message to Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II saying that modern times call for a hastening of the journey toward Christian unity.

The Sept. 22 message was hand-delivered to Alexy II by the archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, on an official visit to Moscow at the invitation of the patriarch. The cardinal gave the message to the patriarch in a meeting that lasted a little more than an hour last Thursday.

"I have a deep affection for all the Orthodox brethren, and I am particularly close to them in these most recent days when conflict has caused significant suffering to peoples so dear to me," the Holy Father said. "I never cease to offer daily prayers for peace, asking the Lord that the appeals of Your Holiness to resolve all hostility for the good of the nations may be heeded."

He added: "Faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ is a bond that unites hearts in a profound way and invites us all to strengthen our commitment to manifest to the world a shared witness of living together respectfully and peacefully.

"Our times, marked so often by conflict and grief, make it even more necessary to hasten the journey toward the full unity of all the disciples of Christ, so that the joyous message of salvation may be spread to all humanity."

Getting closer

Cardinal Sepe told Vatican Radio on the day of his meeting with Alexy II that the Orthodox and Catholic Churches are growing ever closer, "as the patriarch himself emphasized with emotion."

"The impression is that a very important step has been taken to create a climate of closeness and mutual respect, of fraternity and friendship," he added.

Bishop Vincenzo Paglia of Terni, president of the Italian bishops' ecumenism commission, who was also present in the meeting with Alexy II, said that the process of growing closer should proceed with meetings between the various pastors of both Churches.

On the path to unity, the bishop added, "meetings between experts are no longer sufficient." Rather, ecumenism "is a coming together of the Churches."

And, Bishop Paglia affirmed, ecumenism is more and more "a demand of contemporary society."

"The harmony between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church is ever more evident," he said, referring to the challenges presented to all Christians in Europe and contemporary society. "Certain limits and challenges can only be faced from a perspective of unity."

ZE08100604 - 2008-10-06

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Benedict XVI's letter:

Teachings of Christ

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44 ESV)

Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem

O Lord and Master of my life, drive away from me the spirit of despondency, carelessness, love of power, and idle chatter. (Prostration)

Rather grant to me, Your servant, the spirit of wholeness of being, humility, patience, and love. (Prostration)

Yes, O Lord and King, grant that I may see my own faults and not condemn my brother; for You are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen. (Prostration)

Random Proverb

"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom." (Proverbs 11:2 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

'Wine makes glad the heart of man' (Ps. 104:15). But you who have professed sorrow and grief should turn away from such gladness and rejoice in spiritual gifts. If you rejoice in wine, you will live with shameful thoughts and distress will overwhelm you.

St. Theodore of Edessa