Concerns for Europe Stimulate Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue

Vatican Delegation Visiting Athens

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ATHENS, Greece, FEB. 14, 2003 ( After almost 10 centuries of separation, the Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches are experiencing a rapprochement, given the need to express a common concern over the future of Europe.

A sign of this is the visit today of a Vatican delegation to the Greek capital, at the invitation of His Beatitude Christodoulos, Orthodox archbishop of Athens and All Greece.

The delegation’s visit, headed by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, is in response to the official visit to Rome last March of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece.

In a message sent to Archbishop Christodoulos for the occasion, John Paul II wrote that the future of Europe «is so important as to stimulate us to go beyond our past of divisions.»

At stake «is the promotion of all human as well as religious values, the recognition of Churches and ecclesial communities, the safeguarding of the sacredness of life, the protection of creation,» the Pope emphasized.

John Paul II also expressed «the need to give a new, more incisive aspect, to our testimony of faith, so that the Christian roots of Europe will come alive with new sap, the sap of our more unanimous testimony.»

In his own address, Cardinal Kasper said that the meetings that are taking place between Orthodox delegations and the Holy See prove that there are areas within which it is possible to establish collaboration to reaffirm the Christian roots of Europe.

The cardinal suggested that this collaboration be «structured better.» To do so, he suggested the creation of «an operative nucleus» which would help to regulate contacts and to cooperate, especially on all the issues that must be addressed at the European level.

Cardinal Kasper also announced an academic symposium in Rome this May, open to Orthodox theologians, on the Petrine primacy in its biblical, patristic and historical aspects.

In turn, Archbishop Christodoulos told the cardinal: «Now a spirit of renewed contacts and collaboration is emerging, a spirit which we hope God will bless, so that our common efforts for the successful advancement of common concerns will be realized.»

The Orthodox archbishop then enumerated the challenges that face Christians today: «the protection of Europe’s common Christian heritage and identity; bioethics; man’s disregard for the natural environment; protection of human rights; the struggle against terrorism; economic and social inequality; and racial and religious discrimination.»

He added: «The effectiveness of the answers and solutions to be provided can be strengthened and their impact can be all the more felt if they are the result of our common and joint efforts.»

In this connection, Archbishop Christodoulos invited the Holy See to send a delegate May 4-6 to the international congress organized by the Greek Church. The meeting in Athens will focus on the moral principles and values that religious leaders believe should undergird the future Europe.

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