VATICAN CITY, FEB. 27, 2006 (Zenit.org).- A Vatican official turned over a relic of the Apostle Andrew to a representative of Greek Orthodox Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens, who had requested it.
Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, retired president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, gave the relic to Greek Orthodox Bishop Agathangelos on Sunday during a ceremony at Transfiguration Parish in Rome.
The donated relic will be taken to Athens this week and displayed for veneration by the faithful in the Orthodox Church of St. Barbara.
Since 1208, the relics of the apostle have rested in the crypt of the cathedral of Amalfi. They were taken there from Constantinople.
Archbishop Orazio Soricelli agreed to give a relic as a sign of rapprochement between the Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches.
Cardinal Etchegaray handed over the relic in a case, which Bishop Agathangelos, director general of the Apostoliki Diakonia, kissed and showed to the faithful.
In turn, Bishop Agathangelos, who is heading a delegation of Greek students visiting Rome, gave an icon to Cardinal Etchegaray and another depicting the Transfiguration to the rector of the parish church.
The Orthodox bishop said that the Greek delegation had come to Rome “as pilgrims to kneel before the tombs of the Apostles” and added that “in this splendid Church of the Transfiguration we feel the strength of the faith and see the faces of the faithful united with us.”
“At a time when we see evil advancing, we Christians must oppose it with faith, charity and hope,” he said.
On behalf of Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece, the bishop thanked the cardinal for this “most precious relic” and referred to the Catholic Church as “a sister Church.”
The Apostoliki Diakonia (Theological College) of the Greek Orthodox Church offered a concert of Byzantine music before the donation of the relics.
In the subsequent Mass, Cardinal Etchegaray confirmed eight young people.
Father Andrea Santoro, the priest who was recently killed in Turkey, was remembered especially during the celebration, as the deceased had been a priest in Transfiguration Parish for 10 years. Cardinal Etchegaray said he had “prayed especially for don Andrea Santoro before St. Andrew’s relic.”
The visit of the Apostoliki Diakonia to Rome was prepared by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity with the help of the Catholic Committee for Cultural Collaboration with the Orthodox. Among other appointments, they were received by the Pope.