In a message of greeting to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Pope Benedict XVI said that Catholics and Orthodox must work together to bear witness to the Gospel in increasingly secularized societies.
Pope Benedict sent a personal message to Patriarch Bartholomew I for the feast of St. Andrew, the patron of the Constantinople see, and for the 20th anniversary of Bartholomew's election as Patriarch. Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, led a Vatican delegation to Istanbul to join in celebrating the feast.
After meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew, the Vatican delegation joined in a liturgical celebration, at which the papal message was read aloud. In it the Pontiff said that he thanks God "for having allowed me to strengthen the bonds of sincere friendship and true brotherhood which unite us."
The Pope went on to say that Catholic and Orthodox leaders face the same challenges in a secularized society. "Announcing the mystery of salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ needs to undergo deep renewal in many regions which once accepted the light but are now suffering the effects of secularization which impoverishes man in his deepest dimension," he said.
The Vatican annually sends a delegation to join with the Ecumenical Patriarch in celebrating his patronal feast, just as the Orthodox leader sends delegates to Rome for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.