BARI, Italy (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI visited this eastern Italian port on his first papal trip Sunday and pledged to make healing the 1,000-year-old rift with the Orthodox church a "fundamental" commitment of his papacy.
Benedict made the pledge in a city closely tied to the Orthodox church. Bari, on Italy’s Adriatic coast, is considered a "bridge" between East and West and is home to the relics of St. Nicholas of Myra, a fourth century saint who is one of the most popular in both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.
Benedict referred to Bari as a "land of meeting and dialogue" with the Orthodox in his homily at a Mass that closed a national conference on the Eucharist. It was his first pilgrimage outside Rome since being elected the 265th leader of the Roman Catholic Church on April 19.
"I want to repeat my willingness to assume as a fundamental commitment working to reconstitute the full and visible unity of all the followers of Christ, with all my energy," he said to applause from the estimated 200,000 people at the Mass.
Words aren’t enough, he said, adding that "concrete gestures" were needed even from ordinary Catholics to reach out toward the Orthodox.
"I also ask all of you to decisively take the path of spiritual ecumenism, which in prayer will open the door to the Holy Spirit who alone can create unity," he said. [Source]