Litany of Grudges Awaits John Paul II in Athens

Greek Church Rules Out Joint Prayer

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ATHENS, Greece, APR. 27, 2001 ( Greek Orthodox Archbishop Christodoulos will not pray with John Paul II when he visits Athens next week. But he will lecture the Pontiff about 1,000 years of disputes between the two Churches, Reuters reported.

“There will be no joint praying whatsoever,´´ the Holy Synod, the Greek Church´s administrative body, announced today after a meeting to discuss the papal visit.

Instead, Archbishop Christodoulos has been instructed to spell out for the Pope all Orthodox complaints, many stemming from the Great Schism of 1054, which resulted in Eastern Churches splitting from Rome.

“(He) will present with honesty, clarity, theological and historical documentation, all issues of dogma, ecclesiastical and theological, which cause grief, bitterness and perplexity to the Orthodox world,´´ Holy Synod spokesman Metropolitan Efstathios told reporters.

John Paul and Archbishop Christodoulos, who have never met, will be together on three occasions during the May 4-5 visit.

The archbishop helped the Pope realize his dream of retracing the footsteps of Paul in southern Europe by lifting long-standing Orthodox objections to the visit last month.

Still, many conservative Orthodox are angered by the Pope´s presence in the country. On Wednesday, hundreds of Orthodox faithful marched through the streets of Athens to oppose the visit, waving banners reading “Out with the Pope´´ and “Two-horned Heretic.´´

Some Orthodox bishops and the Union of Greek Clerics have also opposed the trip, and monks from the all-male Mount Athos community in northern Greece are staging all-night vigils tonight to pray against the Pope´s arrival.

The country´s 200,000 Catholics, meanwhile, are rejoicing at the first visit by a Roman Pontiff to the mostly Orthodox nation of 11 million people since the schism. “It is a cause for joy and celebration for all of us,´´ Greece´s Catholic Church said in a statement, Reuters noted. The Pope will also travel to Syria and Malta, retracing the footsteps of St. Paul.

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