VATICAN CITY -- Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, in an interview with Vatican Radio said the bilateral contacts between Rome and the Orthodox Churches have developed rapidly "in a very positive sense" this year.
The occasion was today's feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, patron of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Every year on this occasion Pope sends a delegation to Constantinople -- modern-day Istanbul, Turkey. The patriarch, in turn, sends representatives to Rome on June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
"These patronal feasts allow us to live better the joy of being brothers and of participating in a single communion of intentions, which it is necessary to encourage and continue, so that it appears with greater clarity before the world," John Paul II said in his message to Bartholomew I.
The Vatican delegation was headed by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president, of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, along with Bishop Farrell.
"Reciprocal participation in these patronal feasts," the Pope added in his messages, "is the most complete expression of our mutual desire to re-create among ourselves a context of love and participation in mutual prayer to nourish and further our desire for full communion."
Bishop Farrell told Vatican Radio that this exchange of delegations between the Holy See and the ecumenical patriarchate "are the symbol of a growing intensification of the desire to find again that unity of the Church that the Lord wanted."
Orthodox and Catholics have been divided since the Eastern schism of the 11th century, but yet the two Churches try to find full unity.