On Friday morning, after celebrating Mass in private, Pope Benedict XVI paid a visit to the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilus III. The Holy Father spoke with the patriarch of his gratitude for efforts to achieve greater unity between their Churches and asked the Christians of Jerusalem to raise a generation dedicated to the faith.
Pope Benedict began his speech to those assembled by calling to mind the past meetings between his two predecessors and the Orthodox patriarchs of their time.
“These encounters, including my visit today,” he said, “are of great symbolic significance. They recall that the light of the East has illumined the entire world from the very moment when a ‘rising sun’ came to visit us and they remind us too that from here the Gospel was preached to all nations.”
The setting of the meeting also touched the Holy Father, who said, “standing in this hallowed place, alongside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which marks the site where our crucified Lord rose from the dead for all humanity, and near the cenacle, where on the day of Pentecost ‘they were all together in one place,’ who could not feel impelled to bring the fullness of goodwill, sound scholarship and spiritual desire to our ecumenical endeavors?”
The Pope prayed that the gathering “will give new impetus to the work of theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, adding to the recent fruits of study documents and other joint initiatives.”
On that note, the Pontiff recalled last October’s Synod of Bishops, which studied the Word of God, and at which the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, His Holiness Bartholomew I, made an intervention.
“The warm welcome he received and his moving intervention were sincere expressions of the deep spiritual joy that arises from the extent to which communion is already present between our Churches,” the Pope said as he expressed his hope that reconciliation between Christians would continue.
But the Holy Father also noted the division was most acutely experienced when Christians evangelize, since Christ’s mission was one of bringing all men together.
“It is imperative therefore that Christian leaders and their communities bear vibrant testimony to what our faith proclaims: the eternal Word, who entered space and time in this land, Jesus of Nazareth, who walked these streets, through his words and actions calls people of every age to his life of truth and love.”
“It seems to me,” the Pope remarked, “that the greatest service the Christians of Jerusalem can offer their fellow citizens is the upbringing and education of a further generation of well-formed and committed Christians, earnest in their desire to contribute generously to the religious and civic life of this unique and holy city.”
Speaking in the context of dialogue between Christians, the Pope prayed that “the aspirations of the Christians of Jerusalem will be understood as being concordant with the aspirations of all its inhabitants, whatever their religion: a life of religious freedom and peaceful coexistence and – for young people in particular – unimpeded access to education and employment, the prospect of suitable housing and family residency, and the chance to benefit from and contribute to economic stability.”
After meeting with Patriarch Theophilus III, Pope Benedict walked to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, next to the Patriarchate.