FRIDAY
February 16, 2001
volume 12, no. 47

Melkite Church Seeks Ecumenical Union



    VATICAN, Feb. 14, 01 (CWNews.com) -- Patriarch Gregory III of Antioch, the leader of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, is looking forward to the visit by Pope John Paul II to Syria, scheduled for early May of this year.

    The Melkite patriarch, whose headquarters are in Damascus, represents the largest Catholic body in Syria. There are about 300,000 Melkite Catholics in Syria. There are also 800,000 Orthodox believers, most of them tied to the Orthodox patriarchate of Antioch, with which the Melkite Church enjoys particularly warm ecumenical relations. These and other smaller church bodies represent the Christian minority in a land that is 87 percent Muslim.

    In an interview with the Roman news agency I Media, Patriarch Gregory-- who is in Rome to pay his respects to Pope John Paul II-- said that the papal visit would have a "strong ecumenical dimension." Orthodox as well as Catholic officials are involved in the preparation, he reported, and the Pontiff will meet with the Orthodox and Catholic clergy together at one ceremony in Damascus.

    The patriarch said that he and his Orthodox counterpart, Patriarch Ignatius IV, were committed to restoring "full unity" for the Patriarchate of Antioch. "In Syria, we want to have one Church: one," he repeated. "We want to walk together."

    The patriarch reported that he has also spoken with Syrian President Bachar el-Assad about the Pope's trip. He reported that Bachar el-Assad saw the papal visit as particularly important. "If Palestine is the land where Christ was born, Syria is the land where Christianity was born," the Syrian leader claimed.


February 16, 2001
volume 12, no. 47
News from ROME
www.DailyCatholic.org
Return to Today's Issue