Sunday, June 1, 2008


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VATICAN CITY, 30 MAY 2008 (VIS) - The Holy Father has written a Message to His Holiness Alexis II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, delivered by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, during a meeting with the Patriarch.

In the text of his English-language Message, the Pope writes that the cardinal's visit to Russia "offers me a welcome opportunity to extend my cordial greetings, to express my esteem for your ministry in the Russian Orthodox Church and to restate my appreciation for your commitment to fostering relations between Catholics and Orthodox".

"It is with joy", the Holy Father adds, "that I reflect on the experience of growing closeness between us, accompanied by the shared desire to promote authentic Christian values and to witness to our Lord in ever deeper communion. I think with gratitude of the recent visit of Your Holiness to Strasbourg and Paris, and the warm welcome given to the Catholic archbishop of the archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow during the Christmas celebrations last year.

"Another sign of fraternity and friendship towards the Catholic Church is to be seen in the invitation extended to Cardinal Kasper by His Eminence Kirill, metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, president of the Department for External Church Affairs of the Patriarchate of Moscow, to visit that eparchy on the occasion of his name-day. This is not only a sign of personal goodwill, but also a gesture towards the Catholic Church which Cardinal Kasper represents".

"During his time in Russia", writes the Pope, "Cardinal Kasper will visit Kazan to venerate the icon of the Mother of God which my beloved predecessor, Pope John Paul II, conveyed to Your Holiness through the good offices of Cardinal Kasper. ... This icon bears a likeness to all the other venerable icons of the Mother of God. ... It also offers an opportunity for encounter with Muslims, who show great respect for Mary, the Mother of God".

The Pope notes haw the Russian Patriarch "has been increasingly committed to dialogue with other Christians and the members of other religions" and reaffirms his own "deep gratitude" for, and "prayerful interest" in, "the signs of friendship and trust which your Church and its representatives have demonstrated in various ways".

Reiterating his gratitude to Alexis II for his dialogue "with different ecclesial, religious and social bodies", Benedict XVI concludes: "May the Risen Saviour grant you health, peace and inner joy, and may he bring us closer to each other, that we may undertake together our journey towards full communion in Him".

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