Peter and Paul, as disciples and apostles of Jesus Christ, served the Lord in very different ways. Yet in their diversity, both bore witness to the merciful love of God our Father, which each in his own fashion profoundly experienced, even to the sacrifice of his own life. For this reason, from very ancient times the Church in the East and in the West combined in one celebration the commemoration of the martyrdom of Peter and Paul. It is right to celebrate together their self-sacrifice for love of the Lord, for it is at the same time a commemoration of unity and diversity. As you well know, the iconographical tradition represents the two apostles embracing one another, a prophetic sign of the one ecclesial communion in which legitimate differences ought to coexist.
The exchange of delegations between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople on their respective patronal feasts increases our desire for the full restoration of communion between Catholics and Orthodox, of which we already have a foretaste in fraternal encounter, shared prayer and common service to the Gospel. In the first millennium, Christians of East and West shared in the same Eucharistic table, preserving together the same truths of faith while cultivating a variety of theological, spiritual and canonical traditions compatible with the teaching of the apostles and the ecumenical councils. That experience is a necessary point of reference and a source of inspiration for our efforts to restore full communion in our own day, a communion that must not be a bland uniformity.