Pope Wants Church's Rights in Greece Spelled Out

In a Message to Country’s New Ambassador to Holy See

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 7, 2005 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II wants the minority Catholic Church in Greece to be given a juridical statute in that country, as is the case in the rest of the European Union.

The Pope expressed that request in a message sent from the Gemelli Polyclinic to Stavros Lykidis, Greece’s new ambassador to the Holy See.

In the text written in French and handed today to the career diplomat by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Holy Father mentions the importance that the Greek government attributes to the Catholic presence in the country.

“It would be opportune that the Catholic Church, continuing an open and constructive dialogue with all the authorities affected, might have the juridical statute that corresponds to it, and which would be the sign of the full recognition of its rights,” says the papal message.

The Pope noted that such a practice exists “in the whole of the countries of the European Union.”

About 97% of Greece’s 10.6 million inhabitants are Orthodox. Orthodoxy is the official state religion, as recognized in Article 3 of the Constitution. There are about 200,000 Catholics in Greece, including 50,000 of Greek origin.

After recalling Greece’s Christian roots, which date back to the preaching of the Apostle Paul, the papal message mentions that Greece “does not forget its heritage of Christian faith, one of the constitutive elements of the nation.”

Because of this, “the Catholic Church is committed to fraternal dialogue with the Orthodox Church and knows that its faithful living in Greece have no other desire than to live this dialogue daily, concerned to participate fully in the economic, political and social life of the country.”

John Paul II took advantage of the occasion to send greetings to Orthodox Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens, who received him cordially in 2001 during his pilgrimage in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul.

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