The Pope's brief message to the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches also included his condolences at the deaths of Orthodox leaders in the past year.
The Holy Father noted the work the 10-year-old commission has undertaken as they examine "from an historical perspective the various ways in which the Churches expressed their communion in the early centuries."
"During this week devoted to prayer for the unity of all Christ’s followers, you have met to explore more fully the communion and communication which existed between the Churches in the first five centuries of Christian history," he added.
The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity concluded today.
"In acknowledging the progress which has been made," the Pontiff continued, "I express my hope that relations between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches will continue to develop in a fraternal spirit of cooperation, particularly through the growth of a theological dialogue capable of helping all the Lord’s followers to grow in communion and to bear witness before the world to the saving truth of the Gospel."
Finally, Benedict XVI noted that many of the members of the delegation come from areas where Christians "face painful trials and difficulties."
"Through you," he said, "I would like to assure all the faithful of the Middle East of my spiritual closeness and my prayer that this land, so important in God’s plan of salvation, may be led, through constructive dialogue and cooperation, to a future of justice and lasting peace."
The Pope affirmed that all Christians must work together "in mutual acceptance and trust in serving the cause of peace and justice in fidelity to the Lord’s will. May the example and intercession of the countless martyrs and saints who down the ages have borne courageous witness to Christ in all our Churches, sustain and strengthen all of us in meeting the challenges of the present with confidence and hope in the future which the Lord is opening before us."
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Full text: http://www.zenit.org/article-36412?l=english