By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI said he hoped Catholics and Orthodox would continue to move closer to one another, eliminating all obstacles to their ability to celebrate the Eucharist together.
As is customary, Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople sent a delegation to the pope's June 29 celebration of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, patron saints of the Vatican.
Pope Benedict told the delegation, led by Metropolitan John of Pergamon, that he was looking forward to visiting Istanbul, Turkey, to participate in the Nov. 30 celebration of the feast of the patriarchate's patron, St. Andrew.
The pope said he was certain the trip, reciprocating the visits Patriarch Bartholomew has paid to Rome and repeating gestures made by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, "will strengthen our ecclesial fraternity and facilitate collaboration in common initiatives."
"May the Lord help us to move forward with renewed confidence toward the day when we will be able to celebrate together the holy Eucharist of the Lord as a sign of full communion," he said.
Pope Benedict said the invitation of the Turkish government, the patriarchate and the local Catholic community would allow him to visit "a country of ancient and rich culture, a noble country where many holy fathers of our ecclesial, theological and spiritual tradition spent their lives."
The pope also took the occasion to look forward to the scheduled September relaunch of the international Catholic-Orthodox theological dialogue, which has not met for six years.
Metropolitan John is the Orthodox co-chairman of the dialogue.
The pope prayed that "the Holy Spirit will enlighten and inflame our hearts, strengthening our common will to respond, insofar as it depends on us, to the Lord's ardent prayer" that his followers would be one.
"May the disciples of Christ, united in faith, together proclaim his Gospel to the whole world so that, believing in him, all will be saved," the pope said.
Greeting visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square for the midday recitation of the Angelus after Mass, Pope Benedict said the delegation's presence added even more joy to the feast-day celebration.
He thanked Patriarch Bartholomew for sending the delegation, which makes "even more evident the bonds of fraternity existing between our churches."