|Dear Brothers in the Lord,|
It is truly a joy to welcome your esteemed and venerable gathering to Istanbul, formerly the Royal City of Constantinople, being the See of New Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, sister of the Church of the Elder Rome.
We welcome you here as family, honoring first of all the close relations between our two Churches, but also recognizing the importance of brother hierarchs assembling and meeting together in meditation, reflection and consultation.
We recall with great affection the historical visit in November 2006 to the Phanar of His Holiness, our Brother in Christ, Pope Benedict XVI, very soon after his election and installation, continuing the established tradition of his predecessor, the late Pope John Paul II. At the same time, we cannot forget our numerous visits to the Vatican, most recently to address, at the personal invitation of His Holiness, the Synod of Bishops during the XIIth Ordinary General Assembly in Rome in October of 2008.
As you know, these unique encounters are more than merely historical; they are sacred, inasmuch as they restore healing to a broken Church and trust to the people of God. Moreover, they enable us to affirm our shared roots and vision for unity, as well as to deliver common declarations on critical issues of our world and our time, such as the statement in Venice signed by our Modesty with Pope John Paul II on environmental ethics (being the first ever by our two Churches on the burning problem of climate change and ecological degradation) and the statement in Istanbul signed by Pope Benedict and ourselves on our solidarity in the effort for peace and mutual understanding.
Nevertheless, your own meeting as brother hierarchs is equally essential in our troubled times, when global insecurity and rampant poverty grip our world. Today, there is need for a focused and prayerful response by church leaders to the problems faced by our faithful. It is, therefore, our responsibility to take the time – in spiritual retreat and renewal – to reflect on our vocation and respond to our obligations in Christ-like manner. The Body of Christ demands this of us as bishops of the Church; and the people of the Lord surely deserve no less of us.
We wish you every blessing in your deliberations. And, please remember, our home is your home. Welcome.