January 25, 2001
volume 12, no. 25
Orthodox, Protestant Leaders Join Ecumenical Service

Hopes dampened by Orthodox letter released that opposes Pope's Trip to Ukraine

    VATICAN, Jan. 24, 01 ( -- 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 communities.

    The 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.

For other news stories, see

January 25, 2001
volume 12, no. 25
News from Rome

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