Catholic / Orthodox Relations
VIS, 5/26/2003
Vatican City - Today John Paul II received a Delegation of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria, headed by Metropolitan Kalinik. Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and several bishops were also present. The Pope asked members of the delegation to convey to His Beatitude Maxim, patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, his "spiritual closeness, in the hope that full unity between Catholic and Orthodox Christians is achieved as soon as possible."
"While Bulgaria opens up to change, on its way to an expanded Europe," he said, "it is necessary to revive the rich patrimony of faith and culture that the Church and the Bulgarian nation share, and which constitutes the miracle of the work of evangelization carried out by the two brother saints from Thessalonica, Cyril and Methodius, whose legacy stills exists and continues to be for the Slavs deeper and stronger than any other division, after eleven centuries of Christianity among them."

After recalling St. Cyril's words before his death, which were an appeal for unity in the Church, the Holy Father affirmed: "This message of faith, so rooted in your culture and in your Church community, is and continues to be the goal which we must reach in order that Eastern and Western Christians can fully unite and together make the 'plenitude' of the universality of the Church shine better."

John Paul II noted that the Bulgarian delegation came to Rome to commemorate the first anniversary of his apostolic trip to Sofia and "the unforgettable encounter with His Beatitude Maxim" as well as to inaugurate the liturgical use of Sts. Vincent and Anastatius Church near the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

"This experience of fraternal sharing and of reciprocal respect for our legitimate differences," he concluded, "can serve as encouragement to get to know each other better and to collaborate also in other contexts and circumstances, every time that we have the opportunity. May this be a good sign for the future of our relations! I thank the Lord and I ask him to bless our steps on the path which we are on.