DAILY CATHOLIC     TUESDAY     February 16, 1999     vol. 10, no. 32

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- The Vatican has officially confirmed that Pope John Paul II will visit Romania in May 1999, at the invitation of the Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Theoctist.

          That announcement is a particularly significant one, since Romania will be the first predominantly Orthodox country in Eastern Europe to receive a papal visit. Relations between the Orthodox and Catholic churches, which have often been tense, have improved markedly during recent months. The visit by Pope John Paul II is both a product of that improvement and an effort to continue the thaw. The two bodies have been working together to resolve questions about the ownership of church properties seized from the Catholics under the old Stalinist regime.

          Pope John Paul has also made it clear that he sees a visit to Romania as an opportunity to help build a sense of European unity which embraces the "two Christian traditions"-- those of Western and Eastern Christianity. During his Angelus audience on February 14, the Pontiff invoked Sts. Cyril and Methodius, the evangelizers of Eastern Europe, who along with St. Benedict are patrons of the entire European continent.

          The Vatican announcement of the impending visit, issued February 13, ended a week of anticipation. The Holy See had previously received invitations from Romanian Catholic officials and from the country's President Constantinescu. But Vatican officials had indicated that the Pope was waiting for an invitation from the Romanian Orthodox synod, which convened last week.

          Last week, the Orthodox synod indicated that it would invite the Holy Father to visit Romania. But the Vatican press office had cautioned that no announcement would be made until a formal invitation was received. When that invitation did arrive, the Vatican promptly accepted it.

          No dates have been officially set for the papal trip, but diplomatic sources suggest that it will probably occur on May 7- 9, 1999. The Pope is expected to confine his trip to the capital, Bucharest.

          It was also announced that Pope John Paul II will travel to Maribor, in Slovenia, on September 19.

          The Holy Father will preside at beatification ceremonies on that date for Anton Martin Slomsek (1800-1862), the bishop of the diocese which now includes Maribor.

          Bishop Slomsek-- who will be the first Slovenian to be beatified-- was known for his efforts to educate the populace in the native language. He also founded the Association of St. Cyril and Methodius to promote unity between Catholics and Orthodox Christians.

          In a related story on reuniting faiths, Pope John Paul II received Archbishop George Carey of Canterbury, the primate of the Church of England, in a private audience on Saturday, February 13.

          Archbishop Carey, who was in Rome for the opening of a new Anglican center there, has visited the Vatican on two previous occasions: in December 1996 and again in December 1997. The latter meeting was marked by tensions, as the discussions between the Pope and the Anglican primate centered on the question of ordination for women. The decision by the Church of England to ordain women to the priesthood marked a major setback to the hope of unity between the two churches.

          The latest meeting was described as a "warm" conversation. Pope John Paul and Archbishop Carey reportedly discussed the plight of Christians who are being persecuted-- notably in Sudan and in India.

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales. Both CWN and NE are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

February 16, 1999       volume 10, no. 32


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