The Holy See
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1. Syrian Orthodox Church

From October 25th to 27th, 1971, His Holiness Mar Ignatius Jacob III, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, paid an official visit to Rome. During this time he was the guest of the Holy Father. The Pope and the Patriarch met for a long private meeting on October 25th. At the end of this meeting they participated together in a Celebration of Prayer in the Matilda Chapel. During this celebration the following addresses were exchanged:



Your Holiness,

With joy we extend our fraternal greeting as we welcome you to our home. In your person we salute a Church which sees in the faith and devotion of the apostolic community of Antioch the roots and foundation of its own Christian witness. We are particularly happy to welcome an exalted visitor from Damascus, where, in receiving the holy waters of baptism, the Apostle of the Nations, whose name we bear, began that life of total commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ which was to lead him to this city of Rome and the supreme sacrifice of his life out of love for that Lord.

Nine years ago, Your Holiness accepted the invitation of our predecessor of venerated memory, John XXIII, to be represented at the Second Vatican Council by a delegated observer. Since that time the exchange of letters between us and the visit of qualified members of our Church to Your Holiness have helped strengthen the relations between our Churches. Now we have the joy of meeting in person so that we may share the thoughts and desires which animate us as we strive to fulfil God's wish for His Church and for the world redeemed by the precious Blood of His Son.

The history of the relations between our Churches shows many lights and shadows. We recognize that difficulties which have been created over centuries are not always easily overcome. Each of us is motivated by a sincere desire to be faithful to our Fathers in the faith and to the tradition they have handed down to us. Yet this very desire to be faithful to them impels us to search with ever greater zeal for the realization of full communion with each other.

We share a common sacramental life and a common Apostolic tradition, particularly as affirmed in what is popularly called the Nicene Creed. The dogmatic definitions of the first three Ecumenical Councils form part of our common heritage. Thus we confess together the mystery of the Word of God, become one of us to save us and to permit us to become in Him sons of God and brothers of each other.

It is in total submission to this Lord and Saviour, God the Son Incarnate, that we will be able to find the way towards that reconciliation which will bring us to perfect communion. The Syrian Orthodox Church in union with her sister Oriental Orthodox Churches, meeting in Addis Ababa in 1965, has already determined to press forward for a dialogue which will help overcome the misunderstandings of the past. Already theologians are working with renewed effort to throw new light on the mystery of the one Lord Jesus Christ. If they recognize that there are still differences in the theological interpretation of this mystery of Christ because of different ecclesiastical and theological traditions, they are convinced, however, that these various formulations can be understood along the lines of the faith of the early councils, which is the faith we also profess (cf. Pope Pius XII, in Encyclical Sempiternus Rex, A.A.S. 1951, pp. 636-637).

We, as pastors, can encourage the common efforts being made for a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of this mystery which, far from raising doubts about our two different ecclesiastical traditions, can reinforce them and show the basic harmony which exists between them.

The task is the more urgent because of the demands which are being made upon the Churches today. In a world which is struggling to give birth to new ideas, to new developments which can enable all men to share in the gifts of God's creation, to new relationships between men and nations which will ensure peace with justice, we are called to proclaim the "one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all" (Ephesians 4:5-6).

If we can carry on this task in fraternal communion we will contribute in an even more perfect way to that service of the world which is an essential part of the mission of the Church. We will be fulfilling our vocation to see the mystery of the compassion of God translated into Christian compassion between men and for men.

In the visit of Your Holiness we see a new testimony to our common desire to carry out this mission and fulfil this vocation. As we welcome you, we pray that God may guide our steps for the glory of His name and the peace and reconciliation of all those who are called to be His sons.





Your Holiness,

In these joyous moments, we deem it our earnest duty, in our capacity as the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East and the Supreme Head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church, to hail Your Holiness and to greet Your Holy See in Your notable person, since today is a very unique and important day in the history of our two Apostolic Churches.

After 1520 years of break, mutual anathemas and the like, the heads of these two most ancient Churches in Christendom meet each other as brothers in an atmosphere of love and fraternity. Time is a healer of all wounds. It was at Chalcedon in 451 that the break took place. But now both Churches recognize that what took place there was, unfortunately, a stab to the heart of Christendom.

Thank God, those days of unhappy relations are now a thing of the past; and today there is real love and cooperation between our two Apostolic Sees, and Christian communion in general.

In the 20th century there has never been a movement more fruitful than the ecumenical movement, and we recognize with appreciation the constructive role Your Holiness's illustrious predecessor and your good self have played in this field. We on our part look forward to the day when we will have even a greater visible unity and that too without sacrificing our individuality and the cultural contribution each of our Churches can make towards the speedy speeding of the Kingdom of God on earth.

Your Holiness, please accept our sincere gratitude for your brotherly love and hospitality. May God protect Your good self and bless the great Church which, in the Providence of God, Your Holiness heads.


For two days the Patriarch and the archbishops who accompanied him visited the principal holy places of Rome and made contacts with various personalities of the Holy See. In the larger Synod Hall near the Court of Saint Damasus on the morning of 27 October, there took place the farewell visit of the Pope and the Syrian-Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch. A large number of the Synod Fathers were also present. The Pope spoke as follows:




Your Holiness:

Before this assembly of chosen representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, we would like to express once more our joy and our gratitude to God that we have had the opportunity to meet with the spiritual head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in an atmosphere of prayer, openness of spirit and fraternal respect and comprehension.

Throughout the centuries, in times of glory and in times of great suffering, your Church has given witness to Our Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God made man for our salvation. Preachers, scholars and pastors have all contributed to deepening the understanding of the Incarnation of the Son of God and to making the significance of God's condescension towards man a living reality for your people. Many of them bore witness to their faith by the supreme sacrifice of their lives.

We are happy that Your Holiness has personally been able to visit the Church of Rome which, under God's grace, has also struggled to fulfil its mission through the devoted actions of its own teachers, pastors and witnesses to her faith.

These Fathers in the faith and these saints and martyrs call out to us to apply ourselves with renewed dedication to that mission, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who is ever ready to offer us new light and strength. We ourself and our brothers in the episcopate, with humility but also with great confidence, are determined to listen to these promptings of the Spirit and to strive to carry them out to the best of our ability. That is the underlying principle of the work of this Synod of Bishops which is gathered here and which extends today its heartfelt greeting to Your Holiness.

All of us are encouraged by the fact that your own Church, in union with your sister Oriental Orthodox Churches, is also actively engaged in searching for new ways to carry on her mission in a spirit of unity and docility to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches. Your visit to us makes us even more confident that our Churches will find means for greater cooperation in our common task and, at the same time, will open up the road to that full communion so ardently desired by all of us.

As we pray that the Lord of the Church may lead us to full reconciliation, we are mindful also of the particular needs of the Middle East where so many of your faithful are to be found. May this meeting with Your Holiness be a new stimulus to all Christians, especially to those of that area, to work for reconciliation in Christ among themselves and to search out, with imagination and tenacity, a durable peace with justice for all who dwell in those lands so dear to us.

Your Holiness, again we express our heartfelt thanks for your visit. As we take leave of you now, we do so with gratitude to God for what he has permitted us to accomplish up to now, with renewed confidence that the Holy Spirit will continue to show us the ways to accomplish the divine will, and with our prayers that almighty God will abundantly bless Your Holiness and all the clergy and faithful of your Church.



The following is the address of the Patriarch to the Holy Father:




Your Holiness:

We wish to express our gratitude to Your Holiness, to His Eminence, the President Delegate, and to the representatives of the Synod of Bishops, for this opportunity to reveal what lies in our heart as we prepare to leave the city of Rome.

We and our brothers the metropolitans who have accompanied us on this historic visit are deeply grateful for the love and respect Your Holiness and your collaborators have shown us. We are also thankful to have been able to visit this city blessed by the blood of so many martyrs, among them the great and holy Apostles, Peter and Paul. The faith they preached in Antioch, in Rome and in so many others parts of the world is the faith we too are trying to bring to men today. We are happy to be able to address these few words before bishops of the Roman Catholic Church who are meeting to study the ways by which this proclamation of the faith may be done most effectively so as to meet the needs of men today. May almighty God guide your efforts and bless them with success.

The joy of this occasion encourages us to look forward to the great day on which our common Lord will bring us together into the one visible Church that will manifest His own unique glory. Towards that end we and our clergy and people will work by our prayers, our studies and our action. It is our hope that this can be done in common with the members of your own Church wherever possible.

As we return from here, we carry with us profound memories of Your Holiness and your great Church, to be cherished forever in the annals of the Apostolic See of Antioch. May almighty God continue to sustain Your Holiness in good health and strength of spirit to carry on the great work of the Church in the world, to the glory of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


After the discourses, Cardinal Willebrands, President of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, read the text of the "Common Declaration" given below, which was signed by the Holy Father and by His Holiness Patriarch Mar Ignatius Iacob III.




As they conclude their solemn meeting which marks a new step in the relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church, His Holiness Pope Paul VI and His Holiness Mar Ignatius Jacob III humbly render thanks to Almighty God, for having made possible this historic opportunity to pray together, to engage in a fraternal exchange of views concerning the needs of the Church of God and to witness to their common desire that all Christians may intensify their service to the world with humility and complete dedication.

The Pope and the Patriarch have recognized the deep spiritual communion, which already exists between their Churches. The celebration of the sacraments of the Lord, the common profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God made man for man's salvation, the apostolic traditions which form part of the common heritage of both Churches, the great Fathers and Doctors, including Saint Cyril of Alexandria, who are their common masters in the faith all these testify to the action of the Holy Spirit who has continued to work in their Churches even when there have been human weakness and failings. The period of mutual recrimination and condemnation has given place to a willingness to meet together in sincere efforts to lighten and eventually remove the burden of history which still weighs heavily upon Christians.

Progress has already been made and Pope Paul VI and the Patriarch Mar Ignatius Jacob III are in agreement that there is no difference in the faith they profess concerning the mystery of the Word of God made flesh and become really man, even if over the centuries difficulties have arisen out of the different theological expressions by which this faith was expressed. They therefore encourage the clergy and faithful of their Churches to even greater endeavours at removing the obstacles which still prevent complete communion among them. This should be done with love, with openness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and with mutual respect for each other and each other's Church. They particularly exhort the scholars of their Churches, and of all Christian communities, to penetrate more deeply into the mystery of Christ with humility and fidelity to the Apostolic traditions so that the fruits of their reflections may help the Church in her service to the world which the Incarnate Son of God has redeemed.

This world, which God so loved as to send His only begotten Son, is torn by strife, by injustice and by the inhumanity of man towards man. As Christian Pastors, the Pope and the Patriarch raise their common appeal to the leaders of the peoples to increase the efforts towards achieving lasting peace among nations and towards removing the obstacles which prevent so many men from enjoying the fruits of justice and religious freedom. Their appeal is directed to all areas of the world and in particular to that land hallowed by the preaching, the death and the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.