Greek Orthodox Synod Ponders Invitation to Pope
VATICAN, Mar. 2, 01 (CWNews.com) -- The Holy Synod of the Greek
Orthodox Church will meet on March 5 to discuss a possible invitation for
Pope John Paul II to visit Greece on his return trip from a voyage to Syria in
The Holy Father has expressed a desire to visit Greece, as part of his Jubilee
pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Paul. In February he sent a hand-written
letter to the Orthodox Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens, confirming that
desire. That letter was written shortly after Greek President Constantinos
Stephanopoulos, during a visit to Rome, issued an invitation to the Pope on
behalf of the nation's government.
Pope John Paul II has ordinarily sought an invitation from Orthodox Church
leaders before visiting a country where the Orthodox faith predominates.
(The Pontiff's scheduled visit to Ukraine is a noteworthy exception to that
rule. However, the Ukrainian situation is complicated by a split within the
Orthodox hierarchy and a history of tensions between Ukrainian Orthodox
and Catholic parishes.) In Greece, where 97 percent of the population is
Orthodox, there is a great deal of opposition to a papal visit.
The Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church is a permanent body,
composed of 12 bishops. While a few members have already indicated their
opposition to a visit by the Pope, the majority have not expressed any public
opinion. One Orthodox prelate, Bishop Theoclitos of Thessalia, has suggested
that the Pope could come to Greece, but make it clear that he was traveling
as a pilgrim-- or even as the head of state of Vatican City-- rather than as
the Roman Catholic Pontiff. Vatican officials have been distinctly cool in their
reactions toward that suggestion.
March 4, 2001
volume 12, no. 63
News from ROME