Ut unum sint 28
28 If prayer is the "soul" of ecumenicalrenewal and of the yearning for unity, it is the basis and support for everythingthe Council defines as "dialogue". This definition is certainly notunrelated to today's personalist way of thinking. The capacity for"dialogue" is rooted in the nature of the person and his dignity. Asseen by philosophy, this approach is linked to the Christian truth concerningman as expressed by the Council: man is in fact "the only creature onearth which God willed for itself"; thus he cannot "fully findhimself except through a sincere gift of himself".51 Dialogue isan indispensable step along the path towards human self-realization, theself-realization both of each individual and of every human community.Although the concept of "dialogue" might appear to give priority tothe cognitive dimension (dia-logos), all dialogue implies a global,existential dimension. It involves the human subject in his or her entirety;dialogue between communities involves in a particular way the subjectivity ofeach.
This truth about dialogue, so profoundly expressed by Pope Paul VI in hisEncyclical Ecclesiam Suam,52 was also taken up by the Council inits teaching and ecumenical activity. Dialogue is not simply an exchange ofideas. In some way it is always an "exchange of gifts".53
29 For this reason, the Council's Decree on Ecumenismalso emphasizes the importance of "every effort to eliminate words,judgments, and actions which do not respond to the condition of separatedbrethren with truth and fairness and so make mutual relations between them moredifficult".54 The Decree approaches the question from thestandpoint of the Catholic Church and refers to the criteria which she mustapply in relation to other Christians. In all this, however, reciprocity isrequired. To follow these criteria is a commitment of each of the parties whichdesire to enter into dialogue and it is a precondition for starting suchdialogue. It is necessary to pass from antagonism and conflict to a situationwhere each party recognizes the other as a partner. When undertakingdialogue, each side must presuppose in the other a desire for reconciliation,for unity in truth. For this to happen, any display of mutual oppositionmust disappear. Only thus will dialogue help to overcome division and lead uscloser to unity.
30 It can be said, with a sense of lively gratitude tothe Spirit of Truth, that the Second Vatican Council was a blessed time, duringwhich the bases for the Catholic Church's participation in ecumenical dialoguewere laid. At the same time, the presence of many observers from variousChurches and Ecclesial Communities, their deep involvement in the events of theCouncil, the many meetings and the common prayer which the Council madepossible, also helped bring about the conditions for dialogue with oneanother. During the Council, the representatives of other Churches and EcclesialCommunities experienced the readiness of the worldwide Catholic Episcopate, andin particular of the Apostolic See, to engage in dialogue.
31 The Church's commitment to ecumenical dialogue, as ithas clearly appeared since the Council, far from being the responsibility ofthe Apostolic See alone, is also the duty of individual local or particularChurches. Special commissions for fostering the ecumenical spirit andecumenical activity have been set up by the Bishops' Conferences and the Synodsof the Eastern Catholic Churches. Suitable structures similar to these areoperating in individual Dioceses. These initiatives are a sign of thewidespread practical commitment of the Catholic Church to apply the Council'sguidelines on ecumenism: this is an essential aspect of the ecumenicalmovement.55 Dialogue has not only been undertaken; it has become anoutright necessity, one of the Church's priorities. As a result, the"methods" of dialogue have been improved, which in turn has helpedthe spirit of dialogue to grow. In this context mention has to be made in thefirst place of "dialogue between competent experts from different Churchesand Communities. In their meetings, which are organized in a religious spirit,each explains the teaching of his Communion in greater depth and brings outclearly its distinctive features".56 Moreover, it is useful forall the faithful to be familiar with the method which makes dialogue possible.
32 As the Council's Declaration on Religious Freedomaffirms: "Truth is to be sought after in a manner proper to the dignity ofthe human person and his social nature. The inquiry is to be free, carried onwith the aid of teaching or instruction, communication, and dialogue. In thecourse of these, people explain to one another the truth they have discovered,or think they have discovered, in order thus to assist one another in the questfor truth. Moreover, as the truth is discovered, it is by a personal assentthat individuals are to adhere to it".57
Ecumenical dialogue is of essential importance. "Through such dialogueeveryone gains a truer knowledge and more just appreciation of theteaching and religious life of both Communions. In addition, these Communions cooperatemore closely in whatever projects a Christian conscience demands for thecommon good. They also come together for common prayer, where that ispermitted. Finally, all are led to examine their own faithfulness to Christ'swill for the Church and, wherever necessary, undertake with vigour the tasks ofrenewal and reform".58
33 In the Council's thinking, ecumenical dialogue ismarked by a common quest for truth, particularly concerning the Church. Ineffect, truth forms consciences and directs efforts to promote unity. At thesame time, it demands that the consciences and actions of Christians, asbrethren divided from one another, should be inspired by and submissive toChrist's prayer for unity. There is a close relationship between prayer anddialogue. Deeper and more conscious prayer makes dialogue more fruitful. If onthe one hand, dialogue depends on prayer, so, in another sense, prayer alsobecomes the ever more mature fruit of dialogue.
34 Thanks to ecumenical dialogue we can speak of agreater maturity in our common prayer for one another. This is possibleinasmuch as dialogue also serves as an examination of conscience. Inthis context, how can we fail to recall the words of the First Letter of John?"If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not inus. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just, and will forgive our sinsand cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1:8-9). John even goes so far asto state: "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and hisword is not in us" (1:10). Such a radical exhortation to acknowledgeour condition as sinners ought also to mark the spirit which we bring toecumenical dialogue. If such dialogue does not become an examination ofconscience, a kind of "dialogue of consciences", can we count on theassurance which the First Letter of John gives us? "My little children, Iam writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, wehave an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is theexpiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of thewhole world" (2:1-2). All the sins of the world were gathered up in thesaving sacrifice of Christ, including the sins committed against the Church'sunity: the sins of Christians, those of the pastors no less than those of thelay faithful. Even after the many sins which have contributed to our historicaldivisions, Christian unity is possible, provided that we are humblyconscious of having sinned against unity and are convinced of our need forconversion. Not only personal sins must be forgiven and left behind, but alsosocial sins, which is to say the sinful "structures" themselves whichhave contributed and can still contribute to division and to the reinforcing ofdivision.
35 Here once again the Council proves helpful. It can besaid that the entire Decree on Ecumenism is permeated by the spirit ofconversion.59 In the Document, ecumenical dialogue takes on a specificcharacteristic; it becomes a "dialogue of conversion", andthus, in the words of Pope Paul VI, an authentic "dialogue ofsalvation".60 Dialogue cannot take place merely on a horizontallevel, being restricted to meetings, exchanges of points of view or even thesharing of gifts proper to each Community. It has also a primarily verticalthrust, directed towards the One who, as the Redeemer of the world and the Lordof history, is himself our Reconciliation. This vertical aspect of dialoguelies in our acknowledgment, jointly and to each other, that we are men andwomen who have sinned. It is precisely this acknowledgment which creates in brothersand sisters living in Communities not in full communion with one another thatinterior space where Christ, the source of the Church's unity, can effectivelyact, with all the power of his Spirit, the Paraclete.
36 Dialogue is also a natural instrument for comparingdiffering points of view and, above all, for examining those disagreementswhich hinder full communion between Christians. The Decree on Ecumenism dwellsin the first place on a description of the attitudes under which doctrinaldiscussions should take place: "Catholic theologians engaged in ecumenicaldialogue, while standing fast by the teaching of the Church and searchingtogether with separated brothers and sisters into the divine mysteries, shouldact with love for truth, with charity, and with humility".61
Love for the truth is the deepest dimension of any authentic quest for fullcommunion between Christians. Without this love it would be impossible to facethe objective theological, cultural, psychological and social difficultieswhich appear when disagreements are examined. This dimension, which is interiorand personal, must be inseparably accompanied by a spirit of charity andhumility. There must be charity towards one's partner in dialogue, and humilitywith regard to the truth which comes to light and which might require a reviewof assertions and attitudes.
With regard to the study of areas of disagreement, the Council requires thatthe whole body of doctrine be clearly presented. At the same time, it asks thatthe manner and method of expounding the Catholic faith should not be ahindrance to dialogue with our brothers and sisters.62 Certainly it ispossible to profess one's faith and to explain its teaching in a way that iscorrect, fair and understandable, and which at the same time takes into accountboth the way of thinking and the actual historical experiences of the otherparty.
Full communion of course will have to come about through the acceptance ofthe whole truth into which the Holy Spirit guides Christ's disciples. Hence allforms of reductionism or facile "agreement" must be absolutelyavoided. Serious questions must be resolved, for if not, they will reappear atanother time, either in the same terms or in a different guise.
37 The Decree Unitatis Redintegratio alsoindicates a criterion to be followed when Catholics are presenting or comparingdoctrines: "They should remember that in Catholic teaching there exists anorder or 'hierarchy' of truths, since they vary in their relationship to thefoundation of the Christian faith. Thus the way will be opened for this kind offraternal rivalry to incite all to a deeper realization and a clearerexpression of the unfathomable riches of Christ".63
38 In dialogue, one inevitably comes up against theproblem of the different formulations whereby doctrine is expressed in thevarious Churches and Ecclesial Communities. This has more than one consequencefor the work of ecumenism.
In the first place, with regard to doctrinal formulations which differ fromthose normally in use in the community to which one belongs, it is certainlyright to determine whether the words involved say the same thing. This has beenascertained in the case for example of the recent common declarations signed bymy Predecessors or by myself with the Patriarchs of Churches with which forcenturies there have been disputes about Christology. As far as the formulationof revealed truths is concerned, the Declaration Mysterium Ecclesiaestates: "Even though the truths which the Church intends to teach throughher dogmatic formulas are distinct from the changeable conceptions of a givenepoch and can be expressed without them, nevertheless it can sometimes happenthat these truths may be enunciated by the Sacred Magisterium in terms thatbear traces of such conceptions. In view of this, it must be stated that thedogmatic formulas of the Church's Magisterium were from the verybeginning suitable for communicating revealed truth, and that as they are theyremain for ever suitable for communicating this truth to those who interpretthem correctly".64 In this regard, ecumenical dialogue, which promptsthe parties involved to question each other, to understand each other and toexplain their positions to each other, makes surprising discoveries possible.Intolerant polemics and controversies have made incompatible assertions out ofwhat was really the result of two different ways of looking at the samereality. Nowadays we need to find the formula which, by capturing the realityin its entirety, will enable us to move beyond partial readings and eliminatefalse interpretations.
One of the advantages of ecumenism is that it helps Christian Communities todiscover the unfathomable riches of the truth. Here too, everything that theSpirit brings about in "others" can serve for the building up of allCommunities 65 and in a certain sense instruct them in the mystery ofChrist. Authentic ecumenism is a gift at the service of truth.
39 Finally, dialogue puts before the participants realand genuine disagreements in matters of faith. Above all, these disagreementsshould be faced in a sincere spirit of fraternal charity, of respect for thedemands of one's own conscience and of the conscience of the other party, withprofound humility and love for the truth. The examination of such disagreementshas two essential points of reference: Sacred Scripture and the great Traditionof the Church. Catholics have the help of the Church's living Magisterium.
40 Relations between Christians are not aimed merely atmutual knowledge, common prayer and dialogue. They presuppose and from now oncall for every possible form of practical cooperation at all levels: pastoral,cultural and social, as well as that of witnessing to the Gospelmessage.66
"Cooperation among all Christians vividly expresses that bond whichalready unites them, and it sets in clearer relief the features of Christ theServant".67 This cooperation based on our common faith is not onlyfilled with fraternal communion, but is a manifestation of Christ himself.
Moreover, ecumenical cooperation is a true school of ecumenism, a dynamicroad to unity. Unity of action leads to the full unity of faith: "Throughsuch cooperation, all believers in Christ are able to learn easily how they canunderstand each other better and esteem each other more, and how the road tothe unity of Christians may be made smooth".68
In the eyes of the world, cooperation among Christians becomes a form ofcommon Christian witness and a means of evangelization which benefits all involved.
41 What has been said above about ecumenical dialoguesince the end of the Council inspires us to give thanks to the Spirit of Truthpromised by Christ the Lord to the Apostles and the Church (cf. Jn Jn 14,26). It is the first time in history that efforts on behalf of Christianunity have taken on such great proportions and have become so extensive. Thisis truly an immense gift of God, one which deserves all our gratitude. From thefullness of Christ we receive "grace upon grace" (Jn 1,16). Anappreciation of how much God has already given is the condition which disposesus to receive those gifts still indispensable for bringing to completion theecumenical work of unity.
An overall view of the last thirty years enables us better to appreciatemany of the fruits of this common conversion to the Gospel which the Spirit ofGod has brought about by means of the ecumenical movement.
42 It happens for example that, in the spirit of theSermon on the Mount, Christians of one confession no longer consider otherChristians as enemies or strangers but see them as brothers and sisters. Again,the very expression separated brethren tends to be replaced today byexpressions which more readily evoke the deep communion m linked to thebaptismal character m which the Spirit fosters in spite of historical andcanonical divisions. Today we speak of "other Christians", "otherswho have received Baptism", and "Christians of otherCommunities". The Directory for the Application of Principles and Normson Ecumenism refers to the Communities to which these Christians belong as"Churches and Ecclesial Communities that are not in full communion withthe Catholic Church".69 This broadening of vocabulary isindicative of a significant change in attitudes. There is an increasedawareness that we all belong to Christ. I have personally been able many timesto observe this during the ecumenical celebrations which are an important partof my Apostolic Visits to various parts of the world, and also in the meetingsand ecumenical celebrations which have taken place in Rome. The "universalbrotherhood" of Christians has become a firm ecumenical conviction.Consigning to oblivion the excommunications of the past, Communities which wereonce rivals are now in many cases helping one another: places of worship aresometimes lent out; scholarships are offered for the training of ministers inthe Communities most lacking in resources; approaches are made to civilauthorities on behalf of other Christians who are unjustly persecuted; and theslander to which certain groups are subjected is shown to be unfounded.
In a word, Christians have been converted to a fraternal charity whichembraces all Christ's disciples. If it happens that, as a result of violentpolitical disturbances, a certain aggressiveness or a spirit of vengeanceappears, the leaders of the parties in question generally work to make the"New Law" of the spirit of charity prevail. Unfortunately, thisspirit has not been able to transform every situation where brutal conflictrages. In such circumstances those committed to ecumenism are often required tomake choices which are truly heroic.
It needs be reaffirmed in this regard that acknowledging our brotherhood isnot the consequence of a large-hearted philanthropy or a vague family spirit.It is rooted in recognition of the oneness of Baptism and the subsequent dutyto glorify God in his work. The Directory for the Application of Principlesand Norms on Ecumenism expresses the hope that Baptisms will be mutuallyand officially recognized.70 This is something much more than an act ofecumenical courtesy; it constitutes a basic ecclesiological statement.
It is fitting to recall that the fundamental role of Baptism in building upthe Church has been clearly brought out thanks also to multilateraldialogues.71
43 It happens more and more often that the leaders ofChristian Communities join together in taking a stand in the name of Christ onimportant problems concerning man's calling and on freedom, justice, peace, andthe future of the world. In this way they "communicate" in one of thetasks which constitutes the mission of Christians: that of reminding society ofGod's will in a realistic manner, warning the authorities and theirfellow-citizens against taking steps which would lead to the trampling of humanrights. It is clear, as experience shows, that in some circumstances the unitedvoice of Christians has more impact than any one isolated voice.
Nor are the leaders of Communities the only ones joined in the work forunity. Many Christians from all Communities, by reason of their faith, arejointly involved in bold projects aimed at changing the world by inculcatingrespect for the rights and needs of everyone, especially the poor, the lowlyand the defenceless. In my Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, Iwas pleased to note this cooperation, stressing that the Catholic Church cannotfail to take part in these efforts.72 In effect, Christians who onceacted independently are now engaged together in the service of this cause, sothat God's mercy may triumph.
This way of thinking and acting is already that of the Gospel. Hence,reaffirming what I wrote in my first Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis,I have had occasion "to insist on this point and to encourage every effortmade in this direction, at all levels where we meet our other brotherChristians".73 I have thanked God "for what he has alreadyaccomplished in the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities and throughthem", as well as through the Catholic Church.74 Today I see withsatisfaction that the already vast network of ecumenical cooperation isconstantly growing. Thanks also to the influence of the World Council ofChurches, much is being accomplished in this field.
44 Significant progress in ecumenical cooperation hasalso been made in another area, that of the Word of God. I am thinking aboveall of the importance for the different language groups of ecumenicaltranslations of the Bible. Following the promulgation by the Second VaticanCouncil of the Constitution Dei Verbum, the Catholic Church could notfail to welcome this development.75 These translations, prepared byexperts, generally offer a solid basis for the prayer and pastoral activity ofall Christ's followers. Anyone who recalls how heavily debates about Scriptureinfluenced divisions, especially in the West, can appreciate the significantstep forward which these common translations represent.
45 Corresponding to the liturgical renewal carried out bythe Catholic Church, certain other Ecclesial Communities have made efforts torenew their worship. Some, on the basis of a recommendation expressed at theecumenical level,76 have abandoned the custom of celebrating theirliturgy of the Lord's Supper only infrequently and have opted for a celebrationeach Sunday. Again, when the cycles of liturgical readings used by the variousChristian Communities in the West are compared, they appear to be essentiallythe same. Still on the ecumenical level,77 very special prominence hasbeen given to the liturgy and liturgical signs (images, icons, vestments,light, incense, gestures). Moreover, in schools of theology where futureministers are trained, courses in the history and significance of the liturgyare beginning to be part of the curriculum in response to a newly discoveredneed.
These are signs of convergence which regard various aspects of thesacramental life. Certainly, due to disagreements in matters of faith, it isnot yet possible to celebrate together the same Eucharistic Liturgy. And yet wedo have a burning desire to join in celebrating the one Eucharist of the Lord,and this desire itself is already a common prayer of praise, a singlesupplication. Together we speak to the Father and increasingly we do so"with one heart". At times it seems that we are closer to being ablefinally to seal this "real although not yet full" communion. A centuryago who could even have imagined such a thing?
46 In this context, it is a source of joy to note thatCatholic ministers are able, in certain particular cases, to administer theSacraments of the Eucharist, Penance and Anointing of the Sick to Christianswho are not in full communion with the Catholic Church but who greatly desireto receive these sacraments, freely request them and manifest the faith whichthe Catholic Church professes with regard to these sacraments. Conversely, inspecific cases and in particular circumstances, Catholics too can request thesesame sacraments from ministers of Churches in which these sacraments are valid.The conditions for such reciprocal reception have been laid down in specificnorms; for the sake of furthering ecumenism these norms must berespected.78
47 Dialogue does not extend exclusively to matters ofdoctrine but engages the whole person; it is also a dialogue of love. TheCouncil has stated: "Catholics must joyfully acknowledge and esteem thetruly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found amongour separated brothers and sisters. It is right and salutary to recognize theriches of Christ and virtuous works in the lives of others who are bearingwitness to Christ, sometimes even to the shedding of their blood. For God isalways wonderful in his works and worthy of admiration".79
48 The relationships which the members of the CatholicChurch have established with other Christians since the Council have enabled usto discover what God is bringing about in the members of other Churches andEcclesial Communities. This direct contact, at a variety of levels, withpastors and with the members of these Communities has made us aware of thewitness which other Christians bear to God and to Christ. A vast new field hasthus opened up for the whole ecumenical experience, which at the same time isthe great challenge of our time. Is not the twentieth century a time of greatwitness, which extends "even to the shedding of blood"? And does notthis witness also involve the various Churches and Ecclesial Communities whichtake their name from Christ, Crucified and Risen?
Such a joint witness of holiness, as fidelity to the one Lord, has anecumenical potential extraordinarily rich in grace. The Second Vatican Councilmade it clear that elements present among other Christians can contribute tothe edification of Catholics: "Nor should we forget that whatever iswrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brothersand sisters can contribute to our own edification. Whatever is truly Christiannever conflicts with the genuine interests of the faith; indeed, it can alwaysresult in a more ample realization of the very mystery of Christ and theChurch".80 Ecumenical dialogue, as a true dialogue of salvation,will certainly encourage this process, which has already begun well, to advancetowards true and full communion.
49 A valuable result of the contacts between Christiansand of the theological dialogue in which they engage is the growth ofcommunion. Both contacts and dialogue have made Christians aware of theelements of faith which they have in common. This has served to consolidatefurther their commitment to full unity. In all of this, the Second VaticanCouncil remains a powerful source of incentive and orientation.
The Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium links its teaching on theCatholic Church to an acknowledgment of the saving elements found in otherChurches and Ecclesial Communities.81 It is not a matter of becomingaware of static elements passively present in those Churches and Communities.Insofar as they are elements of the Church of Christ, these are by their naturea force for the re-establishment of unity. Consequently, the quest forChristian unity is not a matter of choice or expediency, but a duty whichsprings from the very nature of the Christian community.
In a similar way, the bilateral theological dialogues carried on with themajor Christian Communities start from a recognition of the degree of communionalready present, in order to go on to discuss specific areas of disagreement.The Lord has made it possible for Christians in our day to reduce the number ofmatters traditionally in dispute.
50 In this regard, it must first be acknowledged, withparticular gratitude to Divine Providence, that our bonds with the Churches ofthe East, weakened in the course of the centuries, were strengthened throughthe Second Vatican Council. The observers from these Churches present at theCouncil, together with representatives of the Churches and EcclesialCommunities of the West, stated publicly, at that very solemn moment for theCatholic Church, their common willingness to seek the re-establishment ofcommunion.
The Council, for its part, considered the Churches of the East withobjectivity and deep affection, stressing their ecclesial nature and the realbonds of communion linking them with the Catholic Church. The Decree onEcumenism points out: "Through the celebration of the Eucharist of theLord in each of these Churches, the Church of God is built up and grows instature". It adds, as a consequence, that "although these Churchesare separated from us, they possess true sacraments, above all m by apostolicsuccession m the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are still joined tous in a very close relationship".82
Speaking of the Churches of the East, the Council acknowledged their greatliturgical and spiritual tradition, the specific nature of their historicaldevelopment, the disciplines coming from the earliest times and approved by theHoly Fathers and Ecumenical Councils, and their own particular way ofexpressing their teaching. The Council made this acknowledgement in theconviction that legitimate diversity is in no way opposed to the Church'sunity, but rather enhances her splendour and contributes greatly to thefulfilment of her mission.
The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council wished to base dialogue on thecommunion which already exists, and it draws attention to the noble reality ofthe Churches of the East: "Therefore, this Sacred Synod urges all, butespecially those who plan to devote themselves to the work of restoring thefull communion that is desired between the Eastern Churches and the CatholicChurch, to give due consideration to these special aspects of the origin andgrowth of the Churches of the East, and to the character of the relations whichobtained between them and the Roman See before the separation, and to form forthemselves a correct evaluation of these facts".83
51 The Council's approach has proved fruitful both forthe steady maturing of fraternal relations through the dialogue of charity, andfor doctrinal discussion in the framework of the Joint InternationalCommission for the Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and theOrthodox Church. It has likewise proved most fruitful in relations with theAncient Churches of the East.
The process has been slow and arduous, yet a source of great joy; and it hasbeen inspiring, for it has led to the gradual rediscovery of brotherhood.
52 With regard to the Church of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarchateof Constantinople, the process which we have just mentioned began thanks to themutual openness demonstrated by Popes John XXIII and Paul VI on the one hand,and by the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I and his successors on the other.The resulting change found its historical expression in the ecclesial actwhereby "there was removed from memory and from the midst of theChurch" 84 the remembrance of the excommunications which ninehundred years before, in 1054, had become the symbol of the schism between Romeand Constantinople. That ecclesial event, so filled with ecumenical commitment,took place during the last days of the Council, on 7 December 1965. The Councilthus ended with a solemn act which was at once a healing of historicalmemories, a mutual forgiveness, and a firm commitment to strive for communion.
This gesture had been preceded by the meeting of Pope Paul VI and PatriarchAthenagoras I in Jerusalem, in January 1964, during the Pope's pilgrimage tothe Holy Land. At that time Pope Paul was also able to meet Benedictos, theOrthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem. Later, Pope Paul visited Patriarch Athenagorasat the Phanar (Istanbul), on 25 July 1967, and in October of the same year thePatriarch was solemnly received in Rome. These prayer-filled meetings mappedout the path of rapprochement between the Church of the East and the Church ofthe West, and of the re-establishment of the unity they shared in the firstmillennium.
Following the death of Pope Paul VI and the brief pontificate of Pope JohnI, when the ministry of Bishop of Rome was entrusted to me, I considered it oneof the first duties of my pontificate to renew personal contact with theEcumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I, who had meanwhile succeeded PatriarchAthenagoras in the See of Constantinople. During my visit to the Phanar on 29November 1979, the Patriarch and I were able to decide to begin theologicaldialogue between the Catholic Church and all the Orthodox Churches in canonicalcommunion with the See of Constantinople. In this regard it would seemimportant to add that at that time preparations were already under way for theconvocation of a future Council of the Orthodox Churches. The quest for harmonybetween them contributes to the life and vitality of these sister Churches;this is also significant in view of the role they are called to play in thepath towards unity. The Ecumenical Patriarch decided to repay my visit, and inDecember 1987 I had the joy of welcoming him to Rome with deep affection andwith the solemnity due to him. It is in this context of ecclesial fraternitythat we should mention the practice, which has now been in place for a numberof years, of welcoming a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate to Romefor the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, as well as the custom ofsending a delegation of the Holy See to the Phanar for the solemn celebrationof Saint Andrew.
53 Among other things, these regular contacts permit adirect exchange of information and opinions with a view to fostering fraternalcoordination. Furthermore, taking part together in prayer accustoms us oncemore to living side by side and helps us in accepting and putting into practicethe Lord's will for his Church.
On the path which we have travelled since the Second Vatican Council, atleast two particularly telling events of great ecumenical significance forrelations between East and West should be mentioned. The first of these was the1984 Jubilee in commemoration of the eleventh centenary of the evangelizingactivity of Saints Cyril and Methodius, an occasion which enabled me toproclaim the two Holy Apostles of the Slavs, those heralds of faith, co-patronsof Europe. In 1964, during the Council, Pope Paul VI had already proclaimedSaint Benedict patron of Europe. Associating the two Brothers from Thessalonicawith the great founder of Western monasticism serves indirectly to highlightthat twofold ecclesial and cultural tradition which has proved so significantfor the two thousand years of Christianity which mark the history of Europe.Consequently it is worth recalling that Saints Cyril and Methodius came fromthe background of the Byzantine Church of their day, at a time when the latterwas in communion with Rome. In proclaiming them patrons of Europe, togetherwith Saint Benedict, it was my intention not only to reaffirm the historicaltruth about Christianity in Europe, but also to provide an important topic forthe dialogue between East and West which has raised such high hopes in the periodsince the Council. As in Saint Benedict, so in Saints Cyril and Methodius,Europe can rediscover its spiritual roots. Now, as the second millennium sincethe Birth of Christ draws to a close, they must be venerated together,as the patrons of our past and as the Saints to whom the Churches and nationsof Europe entrust their future.
54 The other event which I am pleased to recall is thecelebration of the Millennium of the Baptism of Rus' (988-1988). The CatholicChurch, and this Apostolic See in particular, desired to take part in theJubilee celebrations and also sought to emphasize that the Baptism conferred onSaint Vladimir in Kiev was a key event in the evangelization of the world. Thegreat Slav nations of Eastern Europe owe their faith to this event, as do thepeoples living beyond the Ural Mountains and as far as Alaska.
In this perspective an expression which I have frequently employed finds itsdeepest meaning: the Church must breathe with her two lungs! In the firstmillennium of the history of Christianity, this expression refers primarily tothe relationship between Byzantium and Rome. From the time of the Baptism ofRus' it comes to have an even wider application: evangelization spread to amuch vaster area, so that it now includes the entire Church. If we thenconsider that the salvific event which took place on the banks of the Dniepergoes back to a time when the Church in the East and the Church in the West werenot divided, we understand clearly that the vision of the full communion to besought is that of unity in legitimate diversity. This is what I stronglyasserted in my Encyclical Epistle Slavorum Apostoli 85 on SaintsCyril and Methodius and in my Apostolic Letter Euntes in Mundum86 addressed to the faithful of the Catholic Church in commemoration ofthe Millennium of the Baptism of Kievan Rus'.
Ut unum sint 28