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Ambulate in Dilectione

Paul VI


(For the future memory of this matter)

    "Walk in love, even as Christ loved you" (Eph 5:2). These words of exhortation of the Apostle of the Gentiles apply to us who are called Christians after the name of our Savior, and they put pressure on us, especially at this time when we are driven more strongly to widen the field of our charity. Yes, by the grace of God our souls are inflamed with the desire of making every effort to bring about the restoration of unity among those who have been called upon to preserve it, since they have been incorporated in Christ. And we ourselves, who by a disposition of divine Providence occupy the Chair of St. Peter, taking this commandment of the Lord to heart, have already repeatedly signified our very firm resolution of seizing every occasion which proves useful and well designed to carry out this will of the Redeemer. We turn over in mind the sad events which, in the wake of serious dissensions, led in 1054 to strife between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople. It was not without reason that our predecessor, Pope St. Gregory VII, wrote after the event: "In the same measure as concord first proved a source of good, the subsequent cooling of charity on both sides proved a source of harm" (Ep. ad Michael. Constantinop. imp., Reg. I, 18, ed. Caspar, p. 30). What was more, things reached such a point that the Papal legates pronounced a sentence of excommunication against Michael Cerularius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and two other churchmen, and the Patriarch, together with his Synod, adopted the same measures in reprisal. But now that times and minds have changed, we are very happy indeed to find that our venerable brother Athenagoras I, Patriarch of Constantinople, together with his Synod, are at one with us in desiring that we be joined by charity, "the pleasant and healthy bond of minds" (cf. St. Augustine, Serm. 350, 3; PL 39, 1534). And so, being anxious to make further progress along the road of brotherly love, by which we could be led into perfect unity, and to remove obstacles and shackles, in the presence of the bishops gathered together in the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, we declare that we regret the words and deeds that were said and enacted at that time and cannot meet with approval now. Furthermore, we wish to cancel out from the memory of the Church and remove from its midst the sentence of excommunication then pronounced, and to have it buried in oblivion. We rejoice, too, that it has fallen to our lot to carry out this deed of fraternal charity here at Rome, near the tomb of the Apostle Peter, on the very day that in Constantinople, called the New Rome, the same thing is happening, and when both the Western and Eastern Churches are celebrating in a religious manner the memory of St. Ambrose, recognized by both as Bishop and Doctor. May the most kind God, cause and source of peace, bring this mutual good will to a happy issue; and may he turn to good account, for his own glory and the benefit of souls, this public testimony of Christian brotherhood.
    Given at Rome, by the resting place of St. Peter, under the Seal of the Fisherman, 7 December 1965, in the third year of our Pontificate.

[Source: E.J. STORMON, ed., Towards the Healing of Schism. The Sees of Rome and Constantinople. Public Statements and Correspondence between the Holy See and the Ecumenical Patriarchate 1958-1984, Ecumenical Documents, 3 (NY/Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1987) 128-129.]


  1. Immediately after Bishop Willebrands had pronounced the Common Declaration, Cardinal Bea read the Pope's response. The brief Ambulate in Dilectione of Pope Paul VI delecting from the memory of the Church the excommunication of 1054. Original text in Latin.

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