Greek Orthodox Delegation Visiting Rome to Overcome "Mistrust"

Will Address Common Challenges with Pope and Vatican Representatives

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 7, 2002 ( The Vatican disclosed that
beginning Friday, key meetings will take place in Rome between Vatican and
Greek Orthodox representatives, to address common problems and overcome
mutual distrust.

A press statement issued by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian
Unity revealed that meetings will be held between its representatives and a
high-level delegation sent by Orthodox Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens.

The announcement is important because the Greek Church was virtually the
only Orthodox community not present at the Day of Prayer for Peace, held in
Assisi on Jan. 24.

Weeks before the event, Archbishop Christodoulos notified the Vatican that
he would not be able to return the visit the Pope made to Athens last May
4, because the Holy Synod believed the trip was premature.

The Orthodox-Rome split dates back to the Eastern schism of 1054. When John
Paul II was in Athens, he asked God´s forgiveness «for past and present
occasions in which the sons and daughters of the Catholic Church sinned by
deeds or omissions against their Orthodox brothers and sisters!»

The Vatican announcement reveals that the Orthodox delegates, who will be
led by Metropolitan Panteleimon of Attika, member of the Synodal Committee
for Inter-Orthodox and Inter-Christian Relations, will meet the Pope
personally next Monday.

The Orthodox guests will stay in Rome until March 13. The Vatican note
explained that, in particular, the Catholic and Greek Orthodox
representatives will seek «to coordinate efforts so that Europe will
continue to be a Christian people,» while respecting «minorities and the
freedom of each people to preserve its faith, language, education and

The pontifical council explained that, in this connection, problems will be
addressed that are «linked to justice and peace, religious freedom, the
family, interreligious dialogue, formation, religious indifference and
secularization, emigration and bioethics,» among others.

The Orthodox representatives will also meet with Archbishop Jean-Louis
Tauran, Vatican secretary for relations with states, and with Cardinal
Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Archbishop Christodoulos sent a letter to Cardinal Walter Kasper, president
of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to announce that
he was sending the delegation. The Orthodox archbishop explained that
«cooperation and collaboration in addressing problems of common interest is
the way that will dissipate, little by little, the distrust and suspicions
that we have inherited from the past.»

This trust, the Greek Orthodox archbishop continues, will help to «overcome
the ecclesiological and dogmatic differences that impede that common
prayer, which stems from union and is its culmination.»

The announcement was made shortly after the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow
canceled Cardinal Kasper´s visit, in protest against the Pope´s decision to
create four Russian dioceses. Moscow and Athens have enjoyed good relations
for a long time. In fact, no sooner had John Paul II´s trip to Athens ended
than Archbishop Christodoulos traveled to Russia to report to Patriarch
Alexy II on its development.

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