The symposium, with the theme "The Witness of the Church in the Modern World," concluded today in Thessaloniki (Salonika), Greece.
To the Venerable Brother
Lord Cardinal Kurt Koch
President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity,
On the occasion of the 12th Inter-Christian Symposium, with the theme "The Witness of the Church in the Modern World," which is being held in Salonika from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2, 2011, I wish to manifest through you, Venerable Brother, my great appreciation for this laudable initiative, promoted by the Franciscan Institute of Spirituality of the Pontifical University Antonianum and by the Department of Theology of the Orthodox Theological Faculty of the Aristotle University of Salonika.
2. The topic that will be discussed at the symposium is of great current importance and is at the center of my concern and prayers, as I already affirmed in the apostolic letter "Ubicumque et Semper," with which I instituted the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. In the course of the centuries the Church has not failed to proclaim the salvific mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but this same proclamation today needs a renewed vigor in many of the regions that were the first to receive the light and that are experiencing the effects of a secularization capable of impoverishing man in his deepest dimension. In reality, we are witnessing in the contemporary world contradictory phenomena: On one hand there is a generalized distraction and also an insensitivity in regard to transcendence; on the other, there are numerous signs that attest to an ongoing profound nostalgia for God in many hearts, which manifests itself in many different ways and which brings many men and women to an attitude of sincere searching.
3. The present cultural, social and economic backdrop poses the same challenges to Catholics and Orthodox. The reflection that will take place in the symposium will have an important ecumenical consequence. The interventions will make it possible to draw a clear picture of the common problems and the presentation of the particularities of the different points of view, favoring an exchange of reflections and experiences in a climate of fraternal charity. The mutual knowledge of our traditions and sincere friendship represent, in themselves, a contribution to the cause of Christian unity. I wish to recall here the words of my Venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, when, in regard to evangelization, he affirmed: "As evangelizers, we must offer Christ's faithful not the image of people divided and separated by unedifying quarrels, but the image of people who are mature in faith and capable of finding a meeting-point beyond the real tensions, thanks to a shared, sincere and disinterested search for truth. Yes, the destiny of evangelization is certainly bound up with the witness of unity given by the Church. This is a source of responsibility and also of comfort" (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, No. 77).
4. Certainly contributing to the good outcome of this work will be the intercession of St. Paul, whose memory is alive in the city of Salonika, where the Apostle preached the Gospel in the first place -- a city to which he remained linked by a special bond of affection. It is necessary that you be animated by the same apostolic zeal that Paul had for a renewed proclamation of the Gospel in the contemporary world.
5. To all those who contributed to the realization of the symposium, to the illustrious speakers and to all the participants, I address my cordial greeting with the hope that the initiative will be a success. I support the works with prayer and with my Apostolic Blessing.
From Castel Gandolfo, August 6, 2011