Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
I am pleased to welcome you to Rome where, for the first time, you are meeting for your annual session. I am grateful for your theological work in the service of communion between Catholics and Orthodox. I thank Cardinal Koch for his words of introduction. I was struck by what you said about your specific task: to seek together ways in which the different traditions can enrich one another without losing their identity. I also found interesting your statement about interpretation as Gegensätze. I liked that. Thank you. It is good to cultivate a unity enriched by differences that will not yield to the temptation of a bland uniformity, which is never good. In this spirit, your discussions center on appreciating how differing aspects present in our traditions, rather than giving rise to disagreements, can become legitimate opportunities for expressing the shared apostolic faith.
I also like your name: you are not a commission or a committee, but a “working group”: a group that assembles in fraternal and patient dialogue experts from various Churches and different countries, who desire to pray and study unity together. Your patron, Saint Irenaeus of Lyons – whom soon I will willingly declare a Doctor of the Church with the title Doctor unitatis – came from the East, exercised his episcopal ministry in the West, and was a great spiritual and theological bridge between Eastern and Western Christians. His name, Irenaeus, contains the word “peace”. We know that the Lord’s peace is not a “negotiated” peace, the fruit of agreements meant to safeguard interests, but a peace that reconciles, that brings together in unity. That is the peace of Jesus. For, as the apostle Paul writes, Christ “is our peace; who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph 2:14). Dear friends, with the help of God, you too are working to break down dividing walls and to build bridges of communion.