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Relations between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church

The Vatican, December 7, 1987

We, Pope John Paul II and the Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I, give thanks to God who has granted us to meet in order to pray together with the faithful of the Church of Rome, venerable by the memory of the principal Apostles Peter and Paul, and to converse with one another concerning the life of Christ’s Church and its mission in the world.

Our meeting is a sign of the fraternal spirit which exists between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. This brotherly spirit which has been manifested on numerous occasions and in diverse ways, does not cease to grow and to bear fruit for the glory of God. We experience again the joy of being together as brothers (cf. Psalm 133). As we give thanks “to the Father of lights from whom every perfect gift comes” (cf. James 1: 17), we pray and we invite all the faithful of the Catholic Church and of the Orthodox Church to intercede with us before God: may he bring to perfection the work which he has begun among us! In making our own St Paul’s words, we exhort them: “Make my joy complete by living in full harmony” (Phil 2:2). May the heart of all be constantly disposed to receiving unity as a gift which the Lord makes to his Church!

We express our joy and satisfaction in taking note of the first results and the positive evolution of the theological dialogue announced at the time of our meeting at the Phanar on 30 November 1979. The documents accepted by the mixed commission constitute important points of reference for the continuation of the dialogue. Indeed, they seek to express what the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church can already profess together as their common faith regarding the mystery of the Church and the bond between faith and sacraments. Since each of our Churches has received and celebrates the same sacraments, they perceive better that, when unity in faith is assured, a certain diversity of expressions, often complementary, and of proper usages does not create an obstacle but enriches the life of the Church and the understanding, always imperfect, of the mystery revealed (cf. 1 Cor 13:12).

In view of these first results of the effort undertaken in common, in “the obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5), to re-establish full communion between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, we thank and encourage the members of the mixed commission for theological dialogue. We desire that the faithful be informed of this in order that they may give thanks to God, may join in prayer to the Lord “that all may be one” (Jn 17.21), may remain vigilant in intercession and may grow together in faith and hope. We desire as well that advances of the dialogue may bring Catholics and Orthodox to grow in better mutual understanding and in greater charity. By preaching, catechesis and theological formation oriented in this direction, the dialogue will bear all its fruits in the People of God.

We beseech the Spirit of the Lord, who at Pentecost manifest unity in the diversity of tongues, to “lead us to the whole, truth” (cf. John 16:13) and to ensure that solutions will be found to the difficulties which still hinder the full communion which will be made manifest in the Eucharistic celebration.

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