Pope Benedict XVI pledged on Sunday to work toward healing the 1,000-year-old rift between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church, during his first foreign trip of his papacy.
"I want to repeat my willingness to make it a fundamental commitment to work, with all my energy, toward reconstituting the full and visible unity of Christ's followers," said Benedict to a crowd of an estimated 200,000 people.
The venue, the Adriatic port of Bari and home to the relics of St. Nichalas of Myra a fourth-century saint popular among both Catholics and Orthodox Christians, befitted the ecumenical event. According to the Associated Press, the presence of the relics has earned the city a reputation as a religious bridge between the East and West.
Benedict also referred to Bari as a land of meeting and dialogue , and said Catholics need to intentionally reach out to the Orthodox Church.
"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.