VATICAN CITY, 2 SEP 2011 (VIS) - Benedict XVI has written a message to Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, for the twelfth Inter-Christian Symposium, which is being held in the Greek city of Thessaloniki from 30 August to 2 September on the theme: "The witness of the Church in the modern world". The event has been promoted by the Franciscan Institute of Spirituality at the "Antonianum" Pontifical Athenaeum in Rome and by the Orthodox Theological Faculty at the Aristotle University in Thessaloniki.

Commenting on the choice of theme, the Pope writes: "Over the course of the centuries the Church has never ceased to proclaim the salvific mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet today that announcement needs to be renewed in many of the regions which first accepted it, and which are currently experiencing the effects of a secularisation capable of impoverishing the most profound aspects of man".

The Holy Father goes on: "In the modern world we are witnessing two contradictory phenomena. On the one hand there is a widespread disinterest, even a lack of sensibility, towards transcendence while, on the other, many signs suggest that a profound nostalgia for God persists in the hearts of many, expressing itself in various ways".

The current cultural, social and economic environment "presents the same challenges to both Catholics and Orthodox. The ideas that emerge from this symposium will, then, have an important ecumenical impact. ... Reciprocal understanding of one another's traditions and sincere friendship are, in themselves, a contribution to the cause of Christian unity".

Finally Benedict XVI, recalling how the city of Thessaloniki is indissolubly associated with the preaching of the Apostle of the Gentiles, expresses the hope that the evangelisers of the modern world will be moved by the same apostolic zeal as St. Paul.
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