VATICAN CITY, 12 DEC 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican the Holy Father received the participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and its president, Cardinal Walter Kasper. The session is dedicated to the theme "The Reception and Future of Ecumenical Dialogue".

This topic, the Pope said, "presents two essential dimensions: on the one hand the discernment of the path taken up to now and, on the other, the identification of new paths to follow, seeking to overcome together the differences that unfortunately persist in the relationships between the disciples of Christ".

"Without a doubt, theological dialogue constitutes an essential ingredient for re-establishing the full communion that we all aspire to and, therefore, it must be sustained and encouraged. This dialogue is developed more in the context of ecclesial relations that . broaden it and involve not only pastors but the entire People of God".

The Holy Father, with respect to the progress made, mentioned "relations with the Orthodox Churches and the ancient Eastern Orthodox Churches, both for what they bring to theological dialogue as well as for the consolidation and growth of ecclesial fraternity" and spoke of the last document of the International Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches entitled "Ecclesial Communion: Conciliar Character and Authority", affirming that "it safely opens a positive perspective of reflection on the relationship between the primate and sinodality in the Church, a crucially important point in the relations with our Orthodox brothers and sisters".

In conclusion, Benedict XVI recalled that the plenary session had given special attention to the "Harvest Project" (ecumenical consensus/convergence on some fundamental aspects of the Christian faith identified in the papers of the first four international bilateral dialogues to those who participated in the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council). The results of the dialogue with "the Lutheran World Federation, the World Methodist Council, the Anglican Communion, and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches are found 'in an intermediate stage of the journey and it is useful and opportune to objectively analyze the results obtained'".