By John Thavis Catholic News Service
ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNS) -- In a meeting of East and West, Pope Benedict XVI prayed with Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and renewed the church's commitment to the search for Christian unity.
The pope expressed his great joy at the encounter and said he would treasure the Orthodox welcome forever.
"I thank the Lord for the grace of this encounter, so filled with authentic good will and ecclesial significance," he said.
"May this meeting strengthen our mutual affection and renew our common commitment to persevere on the journey leading to reconciliation and the peace of the churches," he said.
The evening prayer service in Istanbul Nov. 29 opened two days of richly symbolic events and brought an ecumenical focus to the pope's four-day visit to Turkey.
Patriarch Bartholomew, who is honored as the "first among equals" in the Orthodox world, greeted the pope at the Istanbul airport and met him again shortly afterward on the steps of the patriarchate's headquarters, where dozens of Orthodox prelates were waiting in the Church of St. George.
The pope and patriarch lit votive candles and, as applause rang out, walked up the center aisle, their path clouded with incense. A choir chanted antiphons commemorating Sts. Peter and Paul, the patron saints of Rome, and St. Andrew, the patron of the patriarchal see of Constantinople, the ancient name of Istanbul....
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