Pope Sends Good Wishes for Eastern Christians' Christmas

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II sent best wishes for Christmas to the Eastern Churches, which celebrate this feast on Jan. 7 under the Julian calendar.

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Before reciting the Angelus at midday today along with several thousand pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope said: “May the Lord, born for us from the Virgin Mother, bring serenity and peace to all these ecclesial communities.”

The Russian Orthodox Church is the largest among the Eastern Churches that will celebrate Christmas on Tuesday.

Patriarch Alexy II, who over the past year openly criticized the papal decision to establish four dioceses in Russia, sent John Paul II a Christmas message that read: “Let us take up again our fraternal contacts and direct our joyful praise to the newborn Divine Child, who came on earth for our salvation.”

A spokesman of the Moscow Orthodox Patriarchate told ZENIT that the widely reported message does not change the patriarchate’s attitude toward Rome’s positions. Rather, it is a formal gesture the patriarch carries out every year for Christmas.

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