VATICAN CITY, DEC 14, 2006 (VIS) - This morning, the Holy Father received His Beatitude Christodoulos, archbishop of Athens and of all Greece, who is making an official visit to the Vatican. Prior to his audience with the Pope, the archbishop visited St. Peter's Basilica where he prayed at the tomb of John Paul II.
In his address, the Holy Father recalled how "following the advent of Christianity, Greece and Rome intensified their relations" and how "this gave rise to very different forms of Christian communities and traditions in the regions of the world that today correspond to Eastern Europe and Western Europe. These intense relations helped to create a kind of osmosis in the formation of ecclesial institutions. And this osmosis - in safeguarding the disciplinary, liturgical, theological and spiritual peculiarities of the Roman and Greek traditions - made the Church's evangelizing activity and the inculturation of the Christian faith fruitful."
Pope Benedict highlighted how "our relations continue today, slowly but deeply and with a desire for authenticity." This has made it possible "to discover a new range of spiritual expressions, rich in significance and joint commitment." He also recalled John Paul II's "memorable visit" to Athens in 2001, "a defining point in the progressive intensification of our contacts and collaboration."
Catholics and Orthodox, said Benedict XVI, are called "to make a cultural and, above all, a spiritual contribution. They have the duty to defend the Christian roots of Europe, which have formed the continent down the centuries, and to enable the Christian tradition to continue to manifest itself and work with all its strength in favor of the defense of human dignity, the respect of minorities, avoiding that cultural uniformity which could lead to the loss of the immense riches of civilization. At the same time, it is necessary to work to safeguard human rights, which include the principle of individual freedom, and in particular of religious freedom. These rights must be promoted and defended in the European Union and in each member State.
"At the same time," he added, "we must increase collaboration among Christians in all European countries in order to face the new risks that challenge the Christian faith: growing secularization, relativism and nihilism, which open the way to forms of behavior and laws that damage the inalienable dignity of man and threaten such fundamental institutions as marriage. It is vital to undertake joint pastoral activity, as a joint testimony to our contemporaries and an expression of our hope."
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