St. Peters

Vatican II:
Celebrating 50 years

December 6 - December 12

It was on the last day of the Council, December 7, 1965, that one of its most dramatic events took place. Simultaneously in Rome and Istanbul, statements were read from Pope Paul VI and Greek Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras I which expressed regret for the excommunications of 1054, acknowledged responsibility on both sides, and promised to work together toward full communion of the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Afterward, Pope Paul gave the letter to Metropolitan Meliton of Heliopolis, and when Meliton approached and knelt to kiss the Pope's ring, Paul raised him up and embraced him twice. A Protestant observer later said, “if the Church is able to express its regret for the past with such ease and humility, anything is possible.” The Declaration read:

Mutual pardon is not sufficient to end both old and more recent differences between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. Through the action of the Holy Spirit those differences will be overcome through cleansing of hearts, through regret for historical wrongs, and through an efficacious determination to arrive at a common understanding and expression of the faith of the Apostles and its demands.
     They hope that the whole Christian world, especially the entire Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church will appreciate this gesture as an expression of a sincere desire shared in common for reconciliation, and as an invitation to follow out in a spirit of trust, esteem and mutual charity the dialogue which, with Gods help, will lead to living together again, for the greater good of souls and the coming of the kingdom of God, in that full communion of faith, fraternal accord and sacramental life which existed among them during the first thousand years of the life of the Church.

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Vatican II