POPE Benedict XVI arrived today in Istanbul, the final stop of his four-day trip to Turkey, after celebrating his first mass on Muslim soil in the historic western city of Ephesus.
The pontiff was met at the airport by Bartholomew I, head of the Greek Orthodox Church, as well as Armenian Patriarch Mesrob II and Syriac Patriarchal Vicar Filuk.
Benedict was to hold talks later with Bartholomew I in his quest for rapprochement between Christianity's Eastern and Western rites, estranged for nearly 1000 years.
Welcome by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI After the Prayer Service at the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George
Your Holiness, beloved Brother in the Lord,
It is with sentiments of sincere joy and satisfaction that we welcome you to the sacred and historical city of Istanbul.
This is a city that has known a treasured heritage for the growth of the Church through the ages. It is here that St. Andrew, the "first-called" of the Apostles founded the local Church of Byzantium and installed St. Stachys as its first bishop. It is here that the Emperor and "equal-to-the-Apostles," St. Constantine the Great, established the New Rome. It is here that the Great Councils of the early Church convened to formulate the Symbol of Faith. It is here that martyrs and saints, bishops and monks, theologians and teachers, together with a “cloud of witnesses” confessed what the prophets saw, what the apostles taught, what the church received, what the teachers formulated in doctrine, what the world understood, what grace has shone, namely…the truth that was received, the faith of the fathers. This is the faith of the Orthodox. This faith has established the universe.
So it is with open embrace that we welcome you on the blessed occasion of your first visit to the City, just as our predecessors, Ecumenical Patriarchs Athenagoras and Demetrios, had welcomed your predecessors, Popes Paul VI and John Paul II. These venerable men of the Church sensed the inestimable value and urgent need alike of such encounters in the process of reconciliation through a dialogue of love and truth.
Therefore, we are, both of us, as their successors and as successors to the Thrones of Rome and New Rome equally accountable for the steps - just, of course, as we are for any missteps - along the journey and in our struggle to obey the command of our Lord, that His disciples "may be one."
It was in this spirit that, by the grace of God, we visited repeatedly Rome and two years ago in order to accompany the relics of Saints Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom, formerly Archbishops of this City, whose sacred remains were generously returned to this Patriarchal Cathedral by the late Pope. It was in this spirit, too, that we traveled to Rome only months later to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul.
We are deeply grateful to God that Your Holiness has taken similar steps today in the same spirit. We offer thanks to God in doxology and express thanks also to Your Holiness in fraternal love.
Beloved Brother, welcome. "Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord."
"Blessed is the Name of the Lord now and forevermore."