At 11 this morning in the Clementine Hall, Pope Benedict XVI welcomed members of Christian Churches and ecclesial communities, as well as those of non-Christian religions who had come to Rome for the Mass yesterday to inaugurate his pontificate.
In greeting the delegates of the Orthodox Churches, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the ecclesial communities of the West, he noted how "welcome" their presence was both yesterday in St. Peter's and in the days of mourning for and the funeral of Pope John Paul II. He told them their tribute at that time "went well beyond a simple act of ecclesial courtesy. ... Your participation in the mourning of the Catholic Church for his death showed how true and how great is the common passion for unity."
"In greeting you, I would like to thank the Lord," said the Pope, "Who has blessed us with His mercy and has infused in us a sincere disposition to make His prayer - 'ut unum sint' - our prayer."
Speaking French, Benedict XVI called this morning's meeting "significant as it permits the new bishop of Rome, pastor of the Catholic Church, to repeat to you, with simplicity, 'Duc in altum' (Put out into the deep)." He added that he wished to "reaffirm the irreversible commitment" undertaken at Vatican Council II, and since then, to stay "on the path towards full unity desired by Jesus for His disciples. ... Your presence, dear brothers in Christ, beyond what divides us and throws shadows over our full and visible communion, is a sign of sharing and support for the bishop of Rome, who can count on your support to follow" this path.
"I turn now to you, dear friends from different religious traditions," said the Holy Father in English, "and I thank you sincerely for your presence at the solemn inauguration of my pontificate. ... I am particularly grateful for the presence in our midst of members of the Muslim community, and I express my appreciation for the growth of dialogue between Muslims and Christians, both at the local and international level. I assure you that the Church wants to continue building bridges of friendship with the followers of all religions, in order to seek the true good of every person and of society as a whole.
"The world in which we live is often marked by conflicts, violence and war, but it earnestly longs for peace, peace which is above all a gift from God, peace for which we must pray without ceasing. Yet peace is also a duty to which all peoples must be committed, especially those who profess to belong to religious traditions. Our efforts to come together and foster dialogue are a valuable contribution to building peace on solid foundations."
Benedict XVI concluded by inviting all present "to become together artisans of peace, of a reciprocal commitment to understanding, respect and love." -V.I.S.