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Patriarch Bartholomew I on the Papal Visit

Interview With Orthodox Church Leader

ISTANBUL, Turkey, DEC. 2, 2006 (Zenit) - Benedict XVI's visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople "is of incalculable value in the process of reconciliation," says Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I.

In this interview with the Italian newspaper Avvenire, the patriarch revealed that he made an unexpected ecumenical proposal to the Pope.

Q: What can you tell us about this journey?

Bartholomew I: Above all, I must say that I truly thank His Holiness for his visit to us on the feast day of St. Andrew. It is a truly very significant step forward in our relations, and undertaken in the framework of a journey which has made, on the whole, a contribution to interreligious dialogue which I think is truly important.

Q: You and the Pope have seen one another face to face several times, away from the cameras and journalists. What have you said to one another?

Bartholomew I: His Holiness showed his benevolence to the patriarchate and its problems; for this reason we are truly grateful to him.

It has been an opportunity to know one another better, including the cardinals of his entourage, with whom I think we have established a good friendship, and this also seems to me to be very important.

We can truly say that this Thursday we lived a historic day, under many aspects. Historic for ecumenical dialogue and, as we saw in the afternoon, historic for the relationship between cultures and religions. And, obviously, because of all this, historic also for our country.

Q: The addresses and common declaration you signed are "lofty" and compromising. Have you also spoken of the future?

Bartholomew I: In this respect, I can say that I spoke with His Holiness of something -- something that we could do. I presented him with a proposal which I cannot now elaborate on, as we await an official response, but I can say that His Holiness was very interested and that he received it favorably.

We hope it can be undertaken as it is directed to that ecumenical progress that, as we have affirmed and written in the common declaration, both of us are determined to pursue.

Q: Why are you so determined?

Bartholomew I: Unity is a precious responsibility, but at the same time a difficult one which must be assumed if it is not shared between brothers. The history of the last millennium is a painful "memory" of this reality.

We are profoundly convinced that Benedict XVI's visit has incalculable value in this process of reconciliation, as, in addition, it has taken place at such a difficult time and in very delicate circumstances.

Without a doubt, with the help of God we are offered the opportunity to take a beneficial step forward in the process of reconciliation in our Churches. And perhaps, with the help of God, we will be given the opportunity to surmount some of the barriers of incomprehension among believers of different religions, in particular between Christians and Muslims.

Q: Earlier you also mentioned the importance of this for Turkey. Why?

Bartholomew I: Being at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, this city and this Church hold a truly unique position to foster a meeting among modern civilizations. In a certain sense, Istanbul is the perfect place to become a permanent center of dialogue between the different faiths and cultures.

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Keywords

Patriarch, Bartholomew, Turkey, Pope, Benedict, C onstantinople

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