John Paul II "Delighted" With Greece Visit

ATHENS, Greece, MAY 6, 2001 ( John Paul II «is delighted» with his trip to Greece, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said.

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«Not only did we not see a single protester,» Navarro-Valls said at a press conference. The Pope´s visit, he said, has given impetus to unity with the Orthodox Church, «a division that has lasted for 10 centuries.»

«Two months ago, this trip was unthinkable,» the Vatican spokesman said. «A month and a half ago, it seemed as though it should not take place. Yet, a joint declaration was signed in Athens.»

When he met with reporters in the Areopagus on Friday, Navarro-Valls said: «Once again, the Pope has not let history happen but has directed it. This is also to Christodoulos´ credit, but what tenacity the Pope has.»

At the end of the papal visit, the head of the Orthodox Church traveled to Moscow to meet with Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II. For his part, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople was visiting northern Greece at the same time that the Bishop of Rome landed on Greek soil.

The Vatican spokesman referred to these as coincidences. But he said he believes that these coincidences will also serve to attract the attention of the Orthodox world to the papal visit.

Asked whether, after the Athens pilgrimage, the Pope´s longed-for trip to Moscow is closer, a smiling Navarro-Valls answered: «We will speak about that in two months.»

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