By John-Henry Westen

ISTANBUL, November 30, 2006 ( – Pope Benedict XVI signed a joint declaration today with the leader of Orthodox Christians, Patriarch Bartholomew I. In their declaration, the Roman Catholic and Orthodox leaders commit to joint action to protect life. “We must all commit ourselves to the renewed service of humanity and the defense of human life, every human life,” says the declaration.

The leaders note their willingness to carry on the work of their predecessors toward unity.  They express the necessity of their joint work in reforming the culture of death.  “Moreover, we cannot ignore the increase of secularization, relativism, even nihilism, especially in the Western world. All this calls for a renewed and powerful proclamation of the Gospel, adapted to the cultures of our time,” said the declaration.  “This is why we must strengthen our cooperation and our common witness before the world.”

In the declaration, the Pope and the Patriarch also speak of the formation of the European Union urging that “Those engaged in this great project should not fail to take into consideration all aspects affecting the inalienable rights of the human person.”

“Catholics and Orthodox are called to work together,” the joint declaration says, “to promote respect for the rights of every human being, created in the image and likeness of God.”

The document also addresses religious freedom, economic, social and cultural development, and protection of the environment.