At the end of the divine liturgy they celebrated this morning in the patriarchal church of St. George in Istanbul, Benedict XVI and His Holiness Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch, returned to the ecumenical patriarchate where they signed a joint declaration.
In their declaration, the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, recall the meetings of their predecessors, "who showed the world the urgent need for unity and traced sure paths for attaining it, through dialogue, prayer and the daily life of the Church."
"As pastors," they write, "we have first of all reflected on the mission to proclaim the Gospel in today's world. Moreover, we cannot ignore the increase of secularization, relativism, even nihilism, especially in the Western world. All this calls for a renewed and powerful proclamation of the Gospel, adapted to the cultures of our time. Our traditions represent for us a patrimony which must be continually shared, proposed, and interpreted anew. This is why we must strengthen our cooperation and our common witness before the world."
The Pope and the Patriarch highlight how they "have viewed positively the process that has led to the formation of the European Union. Those engaged in this great project should not fail to take into consideration all aspects affecting the inalienable rights of the human person, especially religious freedom, a witness and guarantor of respect for all other freedoms. In every step towards unification, minorities must be protected, with their cultural traditions and the distinguishing features of their religion."
"Our concern extends," their joint declaration proceeds, "to those parts of today's world where Christians live and to the difficulties they have to face, particularly poverty, wars and terrorism, but equally to various forms of exploitation of the poor, of migrants, women and children. Catholics and Orthodox are called to work together to promote respect for the rights of every human being, created in the image and likeness of God, and to foster economic, social and cultural development.
"Our theological and ethical traditions can offer a solid basis for a united approach in preaching and action. Above all, we wish to affirm that killing innocent people in God's name is an offence against him and against human dignity. We must all commit ourselves to the renewed service of humanity and the defense of human life, every human life.
"We take profoundly to heart the cause of peace in the Middle East, where our Lord lived, suffered, died and rose again, and where a great multitude of our Christian brethren have lived for centuries. We fervently hope that peace will be re-established in that region, that respectful coexistence will be strengthened between the different peoples that live there, between the Churches and between the different religions found there. To this end, we encourage the establishment of closer relationships between Christians, and of an authentic and honest inter-religious dialogue, with a view to combating every form of violence and discrimination.
"At present, in the face of the great threats to the natural environment, we want to express our concern at the negative consequences for humanity and for the whole of creation which can result from economic and technological progress that does not know its limits. As religious leaders, we consider it one of our duties to encourage and to support all efforts made to protect God's creation, and to bequeath to future generations a world in which they will be able to live."
Following the signing ceremony, the Pope had lunch with Patriarch Bartholomew at the ecumenical patriarchate.
Benedict XVI is scheduled to visit to Museum of Santa Sophia and the Blue Mosque, the largest mosque in Istanbul. He will then go on to meet with His Beatitude Mesrob II, Armenian patriarch of Istanbul, with Filuksinos Yusuf Cetin, Syro-Orthodox Metropolitan, and with Isak Haleva, Cheif Rabbi of Turkey.