Speeches 2005-13 24116



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to meet you on the occasion of the International Conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care.

I address my cordial greeting to each one of you, and in the first place to Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, whom I thank for his courteous words.

The choice of the theme: "Pastoral aspects of the treatment of infectious diseases", affords you an opportunity for reflecting, from various points of view, on the infective pathologies that have always accompanied humanity's journey. The number and variety of ways in which, even in our time, they are often a mortal threat to human life is striking.

Terms such as "leprosy", "the plague", "tuberculosis", "AIDS" and "Ebola" evoke dramatic scenes of sorrow and fear: sorrow for the victims and their loved ones, often crushed by a feeling of powerlessness in the face of the inexorable gravity of the illness; fear for the population in general and for those who, because of their profession or their own choice, are in contact with people suffering from these diseases.

Despite the beneficial effects of prevention that the progress in science, medical technology and social policies has brought, the persistence of infectious diseases continues to take a heavy toll of victims and highlights the inevitable limitations of the human condition.

The task of humanity, however, must be to never cease seeking the most effective means and ways to intervene in order to combat these illnesses and reduce patient suffering.

In the past, multitudes of men and women put their skills and their reserve of human generosity at the disposal of sick people with repulsive pathologies. In the context of the Christian Community, "Many consecrated persons have given their lives in service to victims of contagious diseases, confirming the truth that dedication to the point of heroism belongs to the prophetic nature of the consecrated life" (Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata
VC 83).

However, these highly praiseworthy initiatives and generous acts of love are still obstructed by many forms of injustice.

How can we forget the numerous people afflicted by infectious diseases who are forced to live in segregation and sometimes humiliatingly stigmatized? These deplorable situations appear all the more serious in the social and financial disparity between the world's North and the South.

It is important to respond to them with practical interventions that encourage closeness to the sick person by a more lively evangelization of culture and by proposing inspiring motives for the financial and political programmes of governments.

In the first place, closeness to the sick person afflicted by an infectious disease: this is a goal for which the Ecclesial Community should always strive.

The example of Christ who, breaking with the customs of his time, not only permitted lepers to approach him but also restored their health and dignity as persons, has "infected" many of his disciples down through the two millennia of Christian history.

The kiss that Francis of Assisi gave the leper has not only been imitated by heroic figures such as Bl. Damian de Veuster, who died on the Island of Molokai while treating lepers there, and Bl. Teresa of Calcutta as well as the Italian women religious who were killed a few years ago by the Ebola virus, but also by many who champion initiatives for the infectious sick, especially in developing countries.

This rich tradition of the Catholic Church should be kept alive so that, through the exercise of charity to those who are suffering, the values inspired by authentic humanity and by the Gospel are made visible: the dignity of the person, mercy and Christ's identification with the sick person.

No intervention will be adequate if it does not reveal love for the human being, a love nourished by the encounter with Christ.

The indispensable closeness to the sick person should go hand in hand with the evangelization of the cultural context in which we live.

Prejudices that hinder or restrict effective help to the victims of infectious diseases include the attitude of indifference and even of exclusion and rejection that surface from time to time in an affluent society.

This attitude is also encouraged by images of men and women mainly concerned with the physical beauty, health and biological vitality that are conveyed in the media. This is a dangerous cultural trend that leads to putting oneself at the centre, shutting oneself in one's own small world and turning one's back on the commitment to serve those in need.

My venerable Predecessor John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris, expressed the hope that suffering would instead help to "unleash love in the human person, that unselfish gift of one's "I' on behalf of other people, especially those who suffer".

And he added: "The world of human suffering unceasingly calls for, so to speak, another world: the world of human love; and in a certain sense man owes to suffering that unselfish love which stirs in his heart and actions" (n. 29).

What is further needed is a pastoral service that can uplift the sick as they face suffering and help them transform their own condition into a moment of grace, for themselves and for others, through lively participation in Christ's mystery.

Lastly, I would like to reaffirm the importance of collaboration with the various public bodies so that social justice may be implemented in this sensitive area of the treatment and nursing of contagious patients.

I wish to mention, for example, the fair distribution of resources for research and treatment, as well as the promotion of living standards which help to prevent the occurrence and limit the spread of contagious diseases.

In this, as in other areas, the "mediated" task of contributing "to the purification of reason and to the reawakening of those moral forces without which just structures are neither established nor prove effective in the long run", is incumbent upon the Church, whereas "the direct duty to work for a just ordering of society, on the other hand, is proper to the lay faithful... called to take part in public life in a personal capacity" (Deus Caritas Est ).

Thank you, dear friends, for the commitment you devote to the service of a cause in which the healing and saving work of Jesus, the divine Samaritan of souls and bodies, is put into practice.

As I wish your Conference a successful conclusion, I warmly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you and to your loved ones.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I greet you with joy and gratitude for your kind visit. I offer my cordial greeting to all, and first to Bishop Giuseppe Betori, Secretary of the Italian Bishops' Conference, and Fr Giorgio Zucchelli, President of the Italian Federation of Catholic Weeklies, whom I thank for interpreting your common sentiments.

I extend my greeting to the editors of the more than 160 diocesan papers and to the many collaborators who contribute in various capacities to publishing the individual weeklies. I greet the Editor and journalists of SIR Agency as well as the Editor of the daily, Avvenire.

I am particularly grateful to you because, at the end of your Congress on the theme "Catholics in politics: Scattered or free?", you have wished to visit the Successor of the Apostle Peter. You thus renew the attestation of your faithfulness to the Church, to whose service you dedicate your human and professional energies every day. In this regard, I also feel duty bound to thank you for the work of sensitization to the initiatives of good of the Successor of Peter for the needs of the universal Church that you carry out among the faithful.

The Federation of Italian Catholic Weeklies, which includes, as your President has just said, the diocesan newspapers, is celebrating its 40th anniversary in these days.

Indeed, it was on 27 November 1966 that your predecessors decided to join forces and to pool the intellectual and creative potential of the various information services that were already carrying out a useful service in Italian Dioceses. The initiative was born from the desire to give greater visibility and effectiveness to the presence and pastoral action of the Church, whose commitment it intended to support, especially at the most demanding moments.

Leafing through your weeklies of the past four decades, one can retrace the life of the Church and society in Italy: in so many of the events that marked it the social and religious changes are remarkable. These events and changes were punctually recorded and commented upon in these pages and special attention was paid to the daily life of the parishes and diocesan communities.

In the face of a multifaceted action that endeavoured to tear up the Christian roots of Western civilization, the special role of instruments of social communication with a Catholic slant is to educate the mind and form public opinion in accordance with the Gospel spirit. Their task is to serve the truth courageously, helping public opinion to look at, interpret and live the situation with God's eyes.

The objective of the diocesan paper is to offer to all a message of truth and hope, emphasizing the events and situations in which the Gospel is lived, in which good and truth triumph and in which, with hard work and creativity, people weave and repair the human fabric of small community realities.

Dear friends, the rapid development of the means of social communication and the arrival of many and advanced technologies in the media sector have not rendered your role useless. Indeed, in some aspects, it has become even more significant and important, because it gives a voice to the local communities that are not properly represented in the major newspapers.

The pages of your publications, recounting and fostering the vitality and apostolic zeal of individual communities, constitute a precious vehicle of information and a means of Gospel penetration. Your far-reaching circulation witnesses to the importance of your presence - that was also fittingly recognized at the recent Convention of the Italian Church in Verona. You are even able to reach where it is impossible for traditional pastoral means to have any effect.

Your weeklies, furthermore, are rightly described as the "people's papers", for they keep in touch with the events and life of local persons and pass on the popular traditions and rich cultural and religious patrimony of your towns and cities. In recounting daily events, you make known that quiet reality woven of faith and goodness that constitutes the genuine fabric of Italian society.

Continue, dear friends, to make your papers a network of connections that facilitates relations and encounters with individual citizens and institutions, as well as among associations, the various social groups, parishes and ecclesial movements.

Continue to be "papers of the people and among the people", training grounds for comparison and loyal discussion among different opinions so as to encourage authentic dialogue, indispensable for the growth of both civil and ecclesial communities.

You can also carry out this service in the social and political milieus.

If, in fact, as you reaffirmed at your Convention, the legitimate pluralism of political decisions has nothing to do with the cultural diaspora of Catholics, your weeklies can represent certain significant meeting "places" for attentive discernment destined for the lay faithful involved in the social and political arenas, to initiate dialogue and find shared convergences and objectives in serving the Gospel and the common good.

Dear friends, to bring your important task to completion, it is first necessary that you yourselves nurture a constant and profound relationship with Christ in prayer, in listening to his Word and in an intense sacramental life.

It is necessary at the same time that you continue to be active and responsible members of the Ecclesial Community in communion with your Pastors. As editors, editorial staff and administrators of Catholic weeklies, rest assured, you do not carry out merely "any kind of job"; rather, you are "cooperators" in the great evangelizing mission of the Church. May you never be discouraged by the difficulties that abound nor by the obstacles that can sometimes even seem insurmountable. Past experience shows that people need sources of information like your newspapers.

I entrust your Federation and the vast public readership of the diocesan weeklies to the Virgin Mary. May she help you in the daily service which you diligently carry out.

As I also invoke upon you the heavenly intercession of St Francis de Sales, patron of journalists, I warmly bless you all, together with your relatives and your diocesan communities.


MEETING WITH THE PRESIDENT OF THE RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS DIRECTORATE Conference Room of the "Diyanet", Ankara Tuesday, 28 November 2006


Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am grateful for the opportunity to visit this land, so rich in history and culture, to admire its natural beauty, to witness for myself the creativity of the Turkish people, and to appreciate your ancient culture and long history, both civil and religious.

As soon as I arrived in Turkey, I was graciously received by the President of the Republic. And it was also a great pleasure for me to meet and greet the Prime Minister, Mr Erdogan, at the airport. In greeting them, I was pleased to express my profound esteem for all the people of this great country and to pay my respects at the tomb of the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

I now have the joy of meeting you, the President of the Religious Affairs Directorate. I offer you my sentiments of respect, in recognition of your great responsibilities, and I extend my greetings to all the religious leaders of Turkey, especially the Grand Muftis of Ankara and Istanbul. In your person, Mr President, I greet all the Muslims in Turkey with particular esteem and affectionate regard.

Your country is very dear to Christians: many of the earliest Church communities were founded here and grew to maturity, inspired by the preaching of the Apostles, particularly Saint Paul and Saint John. The tradition has come down to us that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, lived at Ephesus, in the home of the Apostle Saint John.

This noble land has also seen a remarkable flowering of Islamic civilization in the most diverse fields, including its literature and art, as well as its institutions.

There are so many Christian and Muslim monuments that bear witness to Turkey’s glorious past. You rightly take pride in these, preserving them for the admiration of the ever increasing number of visitors who flock here.

I have set out upon my visit to Turkey with the same sentiments as those expressed by my predecessor Blessed John XXIII, when he came here as Archbishop Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, to fulfil the office of Papal Representative in Istanbul, and I quote him: “I am fond of the Turks”, he said, “to whom the Lord has sent me … I love the Turks, I appreciate the natural qualities of these people who have their own place reserved in the march of civilization” (Journal of a Soul, pp.
PP 228,233-4).

For my own part, I also wish to highlight the qualities of the Turkish population. Here I make my own the words of my immediate predecessor, Pope John Paul II of blessed memory, who said on the occasion of his visit in 1979: “I wonder if it is not urgent, precisely today when Christians and Muslims have entered a new period of history, to recognize and develop the spiritual bonds that unite us, in order to preserve and promote together, for the benefit of all men, ‘peace, liberty, social justice and moral values’” (Address to the Catholic Community in Ankara, 28 November 1979).

These questions have continued to present themselves throughout the intervening years; indeed, as I indicated at the very beginning of my Pontificate, they impel us to carry forward our dialogue as a sincere exchange between friends. When I had the joy of meeting members of Muslim communities last year in Cologne, on the occasion of World Youth Day, I reiterated the need to approach our interreligious and intercultural dialogue with optimism and hope. It cannot be reduced to an optional extra: on the contrary, it is “a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends” (Address to representatives of some Muslim Communities, Cologne, 20 August 2005).

Christians and Muslims, following their respective religions, point to the truth of the sacred character and dignity of the person. This is the basis of our mutual respect and esteem, this is the basis for cooperation in the service of peace between nations and peoples, the dearest wish of all believers and all people of good will.

For more than forty years, the teaching of the Second Vatican Council has inspired and guided the approach taken by the Holy See and by local Churches throughout the world to relations with the followers of other religions. Following the Biblical tradition, the Council teaches that the entire human race shares a common origin and a common destiny: God, our Creator and the goal of our earthly pilgrimage. Christians and Muslims belong to the family of those who believe in the one God and who, according to their respective traditions, trace their ancestry to Abraham (cf. Second Vatican Council, Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions Nostra Aetate NAE 1,3). This human and spiritual unity in our origins and our destiny impels us to seek a common path as we play our part in the quest for fundamental values so characteristic of the people of our time. As men and women of religion, we are challenged by the widespread longing for justice, development, solidarity, freedom, security, peace, defence of life, protection of the environment and of the resources of the earth. This is because we too, while respecting the legitimate autonomy of temporal affairs, have a specific contribution to offer in the search for proper solutions to these pressing questions.

Above all, we can offer a credible response to the question which emerges clearly from today’s society, even if it is often brushed aside, the question about the meaning and purpose of life, for each individual and for humanity as a whole. We are called to work together, so as to help society to open itself to the transcendent, giving Almighty God his rightful place. The best way forward is via authentic dialogue between Christians and Muslims, based on truth and inspired by a sincere wish to know one another better, respecting differences and recognizing what we have in common. This will lead to an authentic respect for the responsible choices that each person makes, especially those pertaining to fundamental values and to personal religious convictions.

As an illustration of the fraternal respect with which Christians and Muslims can work together, I would like to quote some words addressed by Pope Gregory VII in 1076 to a Muslim prince in North Africa who had acted with great benevolence towards the Christians under his jurisdiction. Pope Gregory spoke of the particular charity that Christians and Muslims owe to one another “because we believe in one God, albeit in a different manner, and because we praise him and worship him every day as the Creator and Ruler of the world.”

Freedom of religion, institutionally guaranteed and effectively respected in practice, both for individuals and communities, constitutes for all believers the necessary condition for their loyal contribution to the building up of society, in an attitude of authentic service, especially towards the most vulnerable and the very poor.

Mr President, I should like to finish by praising the Almighty and merciful God for this happy occasion that brings us together in his name. I pray that it may be a sign of our joint commitment to dialogue between Christians and Muslims, and an encouragement to persevere along that path, in respect and friendship. May we come to know one another better, strengthening the bonds of affection between us in our common wish to live together in harmony, peace and mutual trust. As believers, we draw from our prayer the strength that is needed to overcome all traces of prejudice and to bear joint witness to our firm faith in God. May his blessing be ever upon us! Thank you.

MEETING WITH THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS TO THE REPUBLIC OF TURKEY Apostolic Nunciature of Ankara Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have prepared my speech in French because it is the language of diplomacy, in the hope that it will be understood.

I greet you with great joy, Ambassadors charged with the noble task of representing your countries to the Republic of Turkey, and assembled here in the Nunciature to meet the Successor of Peter. I am grateful to your Vice-Dean, the Ambassador of Lebanon, for the kind words which he has addressed to me. I am pleased to reconfirm the appreciation that the Holy See has often expressed for the important duties that you perform, which today take on an increasingly global dimension. In fact, while your mission calls you above all to protect and promote the legitimate interests of your respective nations, “the inescapable interdependency, which binds the peoples of the world together more and more every day, calls upon all diplomats to become, with an ever new and original spirit, architects of the understanding among peoples, of international security, and of peace among nations.” (John Paul II, Address to the Diplomatic Corps, Mexico, 26 January 1979).

I want to begin by calling to mind the memorable visits of my two predecessors in Turkey, Pope Paul VI in 1967 and Pope John Paul II in 1979. Nor could I fail to mention Pope Benedict XV, the untiring promoter of peace during World War I, and Blessed John XXIII, the Pope known as the “friend of Turks”, who after his years as Apostolic Delegate in Turkey and Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Vicariate of Istanbul, left everyone with the memory of an attentive and loving pastor, particularly eager to meet and come to know the Turkish people, whose grateful guest he was! I am therefore happy to be a guest of Turkey today, having come here as a friend and as an apostle of dialogue and peace.

More than forty years ago, the Second Vatican Council wrote that “Peace is more than the absence of war: it cannot be reduced to the maintenance of a balance of power between opposing forces … but it is the fruit of the right ordering of things with which the divine founder has invested human society and which must be brought about by humanity in its thirst for an ever more perfect reign of justice” (Gaudium et Spes
GS 78). We have come to realize that true peace needs justice, to correct the economic imbalances and political disturbances which always give rise to tension and threaten every society. The recent developments in terrorism and in certain regional conflicts have highlighted the need to respect the decisions of international institutions and also to support them, in particular by giving them effective means to prevent conflicts and to maintain neutral zones between belligerents, through the presence of peacekeeping forces. All this, however, remains insufficient unless there is authentic dialogue, that is to say fruitful debate between the parties concerned, in order to arrive at lasting and acceptable political solutions, respectful of persons and peoples. I am thinking most especially of the disturbing conflict in the Middle East, which shows no sign of abating and weighs heavily on the whole of international life; I am thinking of the risk of peripheral conflicts multiplying and terrorist actions spreading. I appreciate the efforts of numerous countries currently engaged in rebuilding peace in Lebanon, Turkey among them. In your presence, Ambassadors, I appeal once more to the vigilance of the international community, that it not abandon its responsibilities, but make every effort to promote dialogue among all parties involved, which alone can guarantee respect for others, while safeguarding legitimate interests and rejecting recourse to violence. As I wrote in my first World Day of Peace Message, “the truth of peace calls upon everyone to cultivate productive and sincere relationships; it encourages them to seek out and to follow the paths of forgiveness and reconciliation, to be transparent in their dealings with others, and to be faithful to their word” (1 January 2006, 6).

Turkey has always served as a bridge between East and West, between Asia and Europe, and as a crossroads of cultures and religions. During the last century, she acquired the means to become a great modern State, notably by the choice of a secular regime, with a clear distinction between civil society and religion, each of which was to be autonomous in its proper domain while respecting the sphere of the other. The fact that the majority of the population of this country is Muslim is a significant element in the life of society, which the State cannot fail to take into account, yet the Turkish Constitution recognizes every citizen’s right to freedom of worship and freedom of conscience. The civil authorities of every democratic country are duty bound to guarantee the effective freedom of all believers and to permit them to organize freely the life of their religious communities. Naturally it is my hope that believers, whichever religious community they belong to, will continue to benefit from these rights, since I am certain that religious liberty is a fundamental expression of human liberty and that the active presence of religions in society is a source of progress and enrichment for all. This assumes, of course, that religions do not seek to exercise direct political power, as that is not their province, and it also assumes that they utterly refuse to sanction recourse to violence as a legitimate expression of religion. In this regard, I appreciate the work of the Catholic community in Turkey, small in number but deeply committed to contributing all it can to the country’s development, notably by educating the young, and by building peace and harmony among all citizens.

As I have recently observed, “we are in great need of an authentic dialogue between religions and between cultures, capable of assisting us, in a spirit of fruitful co-operation, to overcome all the tensions together” (Address to the Ambassadors of Countries with a Muslim Majority, Castel Gandolfo, 25 September 2006). This dialogue must enable different religions to come to know one another better and to respect one another, in order to work for the fulfilment of man’s noblest aspirations, in search of God and in search of happiness. For my part, on the occasion of my visit to Turkey, I wish to reiterate my great esteem for Muslims, encouraging them to continue to work together, in mutual respect, to promote the dignity of every human being and the growth of a society where personal freedom and care for others provide peace and serenity for all. In this way, religions will be able to play their part in responding to the numerous challenges currently facing our societies. Assuredly, recognition of the positive role of religions within the fabric of society can and must impel us to explore more deeply their knowledge of man and to respect his dignity, by placing him at the centre of political, economic, cultural and social activity. Our world must come to realize that all people are linked by profound solidarity with one another, and they must be encouraged to assert their historical and cultural differences not for the sake of confrontation, but in order to foster mutual respect.

The Church, as you know, has received a spiritual mission from her Founder and therefore she has no intention of intervening directly in political or economic life. However, by virtue of her mission and her long experience of the history of societies and cultures, she wishes to make her voice heard in international debate, so that man’s fundamental dignity, especially that of the weakest, may always be honoured. Given the recent development of the phenomenon of globalized communications, the Holy See looks to the international community to give a clearer lead by establishing rules for better control of economic development, regulating markets, and fostering regional accords between countries. I have no doubt, Ladies and Gentlemen, that in your mission as diplomats you are eager to harmonize the particular interests of your country with the need to maintain good relations with other countries, and that in this way you can contribute significantly to the service of all.

The voice of the Church on the diplomatic scene is always characterized by the Gospel commitment to serve the cause of humanity, and I would be failing in this fundamental obligation if I did not remind you of the need always to place human dignity at the very heart of our concerns. The world is experiencing an extraordinary development of science and technology, with almost immediate consequences for medicine, agriculture and food production, but also for the communication of knowledge; this process must not lack direction or a human point of reference, when it relates to birth, education, manner of life or work, of old age, or death. It is necessary to re-position modern progress within the continuity of our human history and thus to guide it according to the plan written into our nature for the growth of humanity – a plan expressed by the words of the book of Genesis as follows: “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it” (1:28).

Finally, as my thoughts turn to the first Christian communities that sprang up in this land, and especially to the Apostle Paul who established several of them himself, allow me to quote from his Letter to the Galatians: “You were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another” (5:13). Freedom is mutual service. I sincerely hope that the good relations between nations, which it is your task to serve, may also contribute increasingly to the genuine growth of humanity, created in the image of God. Such a noble goal requires the contribution of all. For this reason the Catholic Church intends to renew its co-operation with the Orthodox Church and I hope that my forthcoming meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Phanar will effectively serve this objective. As the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council emphasized, the Church seeks to cooperate with believers and leaders of all religions, and especially with Muslims, in order that together they may “preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values” (Nostra Aetate NAE 3). I hope, from this viewpoint, that my journey to Turkey will bring abundant fruits.

Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen, upon you, upon your families and upon all your co-workers, I invoke with all my heart the Blessings of the Almighty.

MEETING WITH HIS HOLINESS BARTHOLOMEW I ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE Patriarchal Cathedral of Saint George in the Phanar, Istanbul Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity” (
Ps 133,1)

Your Holiness,

I am deeply grateful for the fraternal welcome extended to me by you personally, and by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. I will treasure its memory forever. I thank the Lord for the grace of this encounter, so filled with authentic goodwill and ecclesial significance.

It gives me great joy to be among you, my brothers in Christ, in this Cathedral Church, as we pray together to the Lord and call to mind the momentous events that have sustained our commitment to work for the full unity of Catholics and Orthodox. I wish above all to recall the courageous decision to remove the memory of the anathemas of 1054. The joint declaration of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, written in a spirit of rediscovered love, was solemnly read in a celebration held simultaneously in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome and in this Patriarchal Cathedral. The Tomos of the Patriarch was based on the Johannine profession of faith: “Ho Theós agapé estin” (1Jn 4,9), Deus caritas est! In perfect agreement, Pope Paul VI chose to begin his own Brief with the Pauline exhortation: “Ambulate in dilectione” (Ep 5,2), “Walk in love”. It is on this foundation of mutual love that new relations between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople have developed.

Signs of this love have been evident in numerous declarations of shared commitment and many meaningful gestures. Both Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II were warmly received as visitors in this Church of Saint George, and joined respectively with Patriarchs Athenagoras I and Dimitrios I in strengthening the impetus towards mutual understanding and the quest of full unity. May their names be honoured and blessed!

I also rejoice to be in this land so closely connected to the Christian faith, where many Churches flourished in ancient times. I think of Saint Peter’s exhortations to the early Christian communities “in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1P 1,1), and the rich harvest of martyrs, theologians, pastors, monastics, and holy men and women which those Churches brought forth over the centuries.

I likewise recall the outstanding saints and pastors who have watched over the See of Constantinople, among them Saint Gregory of Nazianzus and Saint John Chrysostom, whom the West also honours as Doctors of the Church. Their relics rest in the Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican, and a part of them were given to Your Holiness as a sign of communion by the late Pope John Paul II for veneration in this very Cathedral. Truly, they are worthy intercessors for us before the Lord.

In this part of the Eastern world were also held the seven Ecumenical Councils which Orthodox and Catholics alike acknowledge as authoritative for the faith and discipline of the Church. They are enduring milestones and guides along our path towards full unity.

I conclude by expressing once more my joy to be with you. May this meeting strengthen our mutual affection and renew our common commitment to persevere on the journey leading to reconciliation and the peace of the Churches.

I greet you in the love of Christ. May the Lord be always with you.

Speeches 2005-13 24116