(Netscape News with CNN, by Nicole Winfield, 05/29/05 08:24)
Benedict made the pledge in a city closely tied to the Orthodox church. Bari, on Italy's Adriatic coast, is considered a ``bridge'' between East and West and is home to the relics of St. Nicholas of Myra, a 4th-Century saint who is one of the most popular in both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. ...
-- St. Nicholas of Myra
Words aren't enough, he said, adding that ``concrete gestures'' were needed even from ordinary Catholics to reach out toward the Orthodox.
``I also ask all of you to decisively take the path of spiritual ecumenism, which in prayer will open the door to the Holy Spirit who alone can create unity,'' he said.
Benedict has said previously that reaching out to the Orthodox and other Christians would be a priority of his papacy, and his call to ordinary Catholics to take the charge as well built on that agenda. ...
In his greetings at the start of the Mass, Archbishop Francesco Cacucci of Bari referred to the city's Orthodox ties, saying the arrival of St. Nicholas' bones in 1057 ``built a bridge between the East and West that neither time nor divisions have ever demolished.''
This charge is, of course, but the continuation of Pope John Paul II's own commitment to ecumenism. As he said in Orientale Lumen :
Since, in fact, we believe that the venerable and ancient tradition of the Eastern Churches is an integral part of the heritage of Christ's Church, the first need for Catholics is to be familiar with that tradition, so as to be nourished by it and to encourage the process of unity in the best way possible for each.
Our Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters are very conscious of being the living bearers of this tradition, together with our Orthodox brothers and sisters. The members of the Catholic Church of the Latin tradition must also be fully acquainted with this treasure and thus feel, with the Pope, a passionate longing that the full manifestation of the Church's catholicity be restored to the Church and to the world, expressed not by a single tradition, and still less by one community in opposition to the other; and that we too may be granted a full taste of the divinely revealed and undivided heritage of the universal Church which is preserved and grows in the life of the Churches of the East as in those of the West.
As I mentioned earlier, this apostolic letter was very encouraging and inspiring for me. I hope soon to share with you my experience today about fulfilling this eminently Catholic duty in my own small way. Can you say, "Orthodox field trip!"?
Dear Saints Cyril and Methodius, pray for us to the Lord, that we all may be brothers in the faith, East and West, just as you were!