VATICAN, Jan. 24, 01 (CWNews.com) -- Some 23 representatives of
different Christian communities will join in an ecumenical liturgical
service on Thursday, January 25 with Pope John Paul II presiding, as the Week
of Prayer for Christian Unity comes to a close.
The Holy Father will lead the ecumenical service at the basilica of St.
Paul Outside-the-Walls. He will be joined by 17 representatives of
Orthodox churches, 5 Protestant leaders, and a Lutheran bishop.
Among the Orthodox leaders participating in the ceremony, the
Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople will be represented by
Metropolitan Gennadios of the Greek Orthodox Church in Italy.
Other Orthodox leaders who are sending representatives include the
patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, and
Albania. Oriental Orthodox representatives will include those of the
Coptic Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Syrian Malankara, Assyrian
Orthodox, and Armenian Apostolic churches.
The Protestant clerics who participate in the ceremony will represent
the Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Evangelical, and Lutheran
Russian Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow will be represented by Bishop
Innokenti, who heads the Russian Orthodox community in France.
A Russian Orthodox news
agency has released portions of a letter to Pope John Paul II, urging
him to postpone his visit to Ukraine.
The Vatican news agency Fides-- which had originally reported the
existence of a letter from Orthodox critics of the Pope's scheduled
June visit-- obtained portions of the letter in question just after
papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls told reporters that the
Vatican had not received any complaint from Orthodox leaders.
Igor Vyzhanov, a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of
Moscow, told Fides, "The Russian Orthodox Church thinks the Pope's
planned visit to Ukraine is premature."
After a meeting of the Ukrainian Orthodox synod in Kiev, the
Radonezh Orthodox news agency released a statement that had been
approved by the Orthodox bishops, authorizing Metropolitan
Vladimir to send a message to Pope John Paul. "The letter contains a
request to the Pope to postpone his visit to Ukraine," the Radonezh
report said. Radonezh also revealed that the 42 Orthodox bishops at
the Kiev synod had given their unanimous approval to that request.
The Orthodox bishops give two reasons for the Pope to postpone his
visit: the tensions between the Ukrainian Orthodox and Ukrainian
Catholic churches, and the current factionalism among Orthodox
believers in Ukraine.
Joaquin Navarro-Valls made it clear in a Tuesday press conference
that the Vatican is moving ahead with plans for the papal visit,
notwithstanding any protests from the Orthodox hierarchy.
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