by Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon


Made in private audience following a Mass to celebrate the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Rome, 28 June 1998


Pope John Paul II

"Dear Brothers in Christ, I cordially welcome you, the delegates of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, who have come to Rome to take part in the solemn Eucharistic celebration to mark the feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul. For a number of years, this brotherly exchange has brought together representatives of the church which owes its beginnings to the apostolate of Sts. Peter and Paul here in Rome and the church which traces its origin to St. Andrew.

The two brother Apostles Peter and Andrew, patrons respectively of the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople, bring to mind the vocation received from the Lord to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom: "As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew; they were making a cast in the lake with their net, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, 'Follow me and I will make you fishers of men'" (Mt 4:23).

This is the perennial task of the disciples of the Lord in every age and every place: the proclamation of the kingdom and the healing of the evils afflicting the People of God. As we approach the third millennium, the Spirit makes us understand the urgency of a more intense dedication to this task. And the witness of Christian unity becomes even more imperative: "that they may all be one … so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (Jn 17:21). In this perspective, it is with joy that I recall the Joint Declaration signed by His Holiness Bartholomew I and myself, in which we urged Catholics and Orthodox "to make this spiritual pilgrimage together towards the Jubilee." We expressed our shared conviction that "reflection, prayer, dialogue, reciprocal forgiveness and mutual fraternal love will bring us closer to the Lord, and will help us better to understand his will for the Church and for humanity." Your presence among us for the Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul is a clear sign of our common will to undertake this journey in fraternal charity and in love for the truth, trusting in Jesus Christ, the only Lord and Savior of the world.

I ask you to take the assurance of my cordial greeting and fraternal regard to His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch. May God who has begun a good work in us bring it to completion. Amen."


Metropolitan John of Pergamon gave this speech in reply:

"Your Holiness, We give glory and thanks to the Triune God for granting us the great blessing to visit Your Holiness as official representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Church of Constantinople on the occasion of the Feast of the Patron Saint of the venerable Church of Rome, the church presiding in love," according to the well-known expression of St. Ignatius of Antioch.

It is indeed a distinct privilege and a great honor for myself and my brothers in Christ, the Right Reverend Emmanuel, Bishop of Reghion, and the Reverend Presbyter Christos Christakis, who accompany me, to stand at this moment before Your Holiness as participants in a long tradition of exchange of official visits between our two ancient churches on the occasion of the feasts of their respective Patron Saints. Such a sacred custom re-affirms and deepens the bond of love which unites our two churches, and paves the way to the full unity which our Lord demands from us. His All-Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, fully conscious of the significance of this sacred custom, which he blessed himself with his personal visit to You on the same occasion three years ago, has commanded us to offer You the assurance of his feelings of deep brotherly love and honor, as well as of his firm commitment to the holy task of furthering and deepening the unity of our two churches.

It is indeed for the sake of this sacred cause of unity that our two churches are officially engaged in theological dialogue so that on the basis of their common heritage of the first thousand years of the Church’s life they may remove the obstacles to full communion that have appeared since the tragic Schism which has separated us for almost a millennium now. The bitter experience of this long period of separation has made us all aware of the need to accelerate the process of restoring our full communion so that the approaching third millennium of the Christian era may find the Church of God visibly united as she was before the great Schism. As Your Holiness has aptly put it some years ago, East and West are the two lungs by which the Church breaths; their unity is essential to the healthy life of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Your Holiness, As we strive to reach the restoration of the full communion of our churches through the dialogue of love and truth, trying to overcome obstacles, old and new, on our way, we are encouraged by the declarations of support Your Holiness repeatedly offers to this sacred goal. We are particularly appreciative of Your Encyclical Ut Unum Sint and the possibilities it offers for a constructive discussion of certain fundamental ecclesiological questions affecting our unity. The invitation your holiness has addressed to all Christians for a frank and open discussion of the subject of the Petrine ministry in the Church is already leading to important discussions. Equally, the document of the Pontifical Council for Unity on the Procession of the Holy Spirit offers the basis for important clarifications concerning an issue that has that has divided West and East for such a long time. We in the Orthodox Church are very pleased that theology is taken seriously in our efforts to restore full communion, for we believe that Truth must be the solid foundation for a lasting and God-pleasing unity.

Your Holiness, As we approach the end of this millennium we become aware of the Churchs great responsibility towards humanity. The impressive achievements of science and technology risk becoming a serious threat to the dignity of the human person and the survival of Gods creation, as they do not seem to be accompanied by a respect for ethical values. The repeated appeals and efforts of Your Holiness for the sanctity of human life and the dignity of the human person, as well as the initiatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the protection of the natural environment, indicate our awareness of the Church’s responsibility today. Our voice and our efforts, however, can be credible in the contemporary world only if our divisions are healed and overcome.

With these thoughts, which our Patriarchal delegation with humility and respect wishes to express to Your Holiness on this solemn occasion of today’s great Feast, we have the honor and the privilege to ask You to receive from our hands the present personal Letter of His All-Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, together with His Holy Synods congratulations and good wishes on the Patron Feast of your church.

May the Lord, through the supplication of His Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, whose memory we celebrate today, grant Your Holiness health and strength for many years to come, to the glory of the Triune God and for the benefit of the unity of all in Christ's name."