John Paul II Evaluates Trip to Greece, Syria and Malta

Recalls Highlights During General Audience

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 16, 2001 ( John Paul II dedicated his midweek general audience to recall fondly his pilgrimage to Greece, Syria and Malta, in St. Paul´s footsteps.

John Paul II recalled the most significant moments of his May 4-9 marathon, which aimed to promote reconciliation with Orthodoxy, dialogue with Islam, and peace in the Middle East, and to present holiness as the way of life for Christians.

The Pontiff likes to make a summary of his travels, at the end of his apostolic journeys. He did so this morning, one week after ending his 93rd international trip, when he addressed thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter´s Square.

He recalled his 24 hours in Athens, Greece, where he «wished to express to all Orthodox Churches everywhere the affection and esteem of the Catholic Church, with the hope that the memory of past faults against communion will be fully purified and leave room for reconciliation and fraternity.»

A highlight of his trip in Greece was the Areopagus of Athens, where the words of the Apostle Paul´s famous speech resonated almost 2,000 years ago.

«At the beginning of the third millennium,» the Pope said, «the Areopagus of Athens became, in a certain sense, the Areopagus of the world, from which the Christian message of salvation is proposed again to all those who seek God.»

Referring to his four-day visit to Syria, John Paul II confirmed that «interreligious dialogue with Islam becomes ever more important and necessary. In this connection, the warm welcome given to me by the civil authorities and the Grand Mufti was truly encouraging.»

In Syria, the Pope said that he «could not but turn to God in a special prayer for peace in the Middle East, motivated, unfortunately, by the present dramatic situation, which becomes increasingly worrying.»

«I went up to the Golan Heights,» he recalled, «to the church of Quneitra, semi-destroyed by the war, and raised my supplication there. In a certain sense, my spirit remained there, and my prayer continues and will not end until the vendetta gives way to reconciliation and the recognition of reciprocal rights.»

Lastly, the Pontiff recalled his visit to the Mediterranean island of Malta, where he beatified three of the faithful. In this way, he wished «to indicate the path of holiness as the master way for believers.»

Before bidding the pilgrims farewell, John Paul II publicly thanked an Italian shoe company for sending shoes to poor children in Ukraine. He plans to visit that country June 23-27.

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