John Paul II on Eastern Catholic Churches

On May 2, 1995, Pope John Paul II promulgated his Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen - "The Light of the East," calling all members of the Catholic Church to an increased awareness of the rich spiritual traditions of the Eastern Catholic Churches. The Holy Father began this letter with these words:

"The light of the East has illumined the universal Church, from the moment when 'a rising sun' appeared above us (Lk 1:78): Jesus Christ, our Lord whom all Christians invoke as the Redeemer of man and the hope of the world.

"That light inspired my predecessor Pope Leo XIII to write the Apostolic Letter Orientalium Dignitas in which he sought to safeguard the significance of the Eastern traditions for the whole Church.

"On the centenary of that event and of the initiatives the Pontiff intended at that time as an aid to restoring unity with all the Christians of the East, I wish to send to the Catholic Church a similar appeal, which has been enriched by the knowledge and interchange which has taken place over the past century.

"Since, in fact, we believe that the venerable and ancient tradition of the Eastern Churches is an integral part of the heritage of Christ's Church, the first need for Catholics is to be familiar with that tradition, so as to be nourished by it and to encourage the process of unity in the best way possible for each.

"Our Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters are very conscious of being the living bearers of this tradition, together with our Orthodox brothers and sisters. The members of the Catholic Church of the Latin tradition must also be fully acquainted with this treasure and thus feel, with the Pope, a passionate longing that the full manifestation of the Church's catholicity be restored to the Church and to the world, expressed not by a single tradition, and still less by one community in opposition to the other; and that we too may all be granted a full taste of the divinely revealed and undivided heritage of the universal Church which is preserved and grows in the life of the Churches of the East as in those of the West."

On August 9, 1995, at a General Audience, the Holy Father spoke of the high regard that the Second Vatican Council showed for the Eastern Catholic Churches:

"In this context, I would like to convey a cordial greeting to those Eastern Churches who live in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, while still preserving their ancient liturgical, disciplinary and spiritual traditions. They offer a special witness to that diversity in unity which adds to the beauty of Christ's Church. Today more than ever, the mission entrusted to them is one of service to the unity Christ desired for his Church, by sharing 'in the dialogue of love and in the theological dialogue at both the local and international levels, and thus contributing to mutual understanding...' (Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint , 60)." - "Vatican II Praised Eastern Traditions," Pope John Paul II; General Audience 9 August 1995.