March 8, 2001
volume 12, no. 67

Greek Orthodox Say Pope Welcome to Visit

    ATHENS, Mar. 7, 01 ( -- The Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church has announced that Pope John Paul II will be welcome to visit Greece.

    The public statement by the ruling body of the Greek Orthodox Church indicated that a "mixed commission" made up of Catholic and Orthodox representatives would be organized to make plans for a papal visit.

    Pope John Paul has repeatedly expressed a desire to visit Greece, tracing the footsteps of St. Paul, as part of his "Jubilee pilgrimage" to the historic sites connected with the history of salvation. In January, Greek President Constantinos Stephanopoulos had issued an invitation to the Pope on behalf of the country's government. However, Vatican officials made it clear that the Pope's trip would not go forward without a green light from the Greek Orthodox Church. Nearly 97 percent of the people of Greece are members of the Greek Orthodox Church, and tensions between the Catholic and Orthodox communities had raised doubts whether the Pontiff would be welcomed.

    Although the public statement by the Orthodox leadership stopped short of an outright invitation the Holy Father to Greece, the Holy Synod expressed no opposition to the prospect of a papal visit. And the statement from the Greek Orthodox leadership cautions the people of Greece against any display of hostility toward the Pontiff.

    Archbishop Nikolas Foscolos of Athens, the ranking Catholic prelate in Greece, welcomed the statement of the Holy Synod as "a positive sign for us." Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said, "We hope that we can soon announce the spiritual pilgrimage of the Pope in the footsteps of St. Paul, according to his desire."

    The Vatican indicated that no formal announcement would be forthcoming until an official invitation was received from the Holy Synod. Officials hope that the Pope will be able to stop in Greece on his return trip after his visit to Syria in May.

March 8, 2001
volume 12, no. 67
News from ROME
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