SUNDAY
March 4, 2001
volume 12, no. 63

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 May.

    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
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