DAILY CATHOLIC     TUESDAY     June 29, 1999     vol. 10, no. 125

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John Paul II Receives Delegation from Patriarchate of Constantinople

          VATICAN CITY, JUN 28 (ZENIT).- The dialogue between Orthodox and Catholics continues to progress. This morning John Paul II received a delegation from the ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, on the occasion of the feast of the Bishop of Rome, to be celebrated tomorrow, June 29, on the Day of Saints Peter and Paul.

          This is a custom begun some years ago. Rome returns the compliment by sending a delegation to Constantinople on November 30, the feast of St. Andrew, the Apostle Peter's brother. The tradition is not automatic, however. Over the years, when there were tensions on the ecumenical road, the Patriarchate of Constantinople did not send a delegation to Rome.

          The ecumenical relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have made progress over the last few years, especially at the theological level, thanks to the work of a mixed international Commission composed of members of the two Christian confessions. This year the Commission has been unable to meet because of the Kosovo war. The meeting should have taken place in Baltimore, Maryland, in the spring but, understandably, the Serbian Church, as well as other Orthodox Churches, did not feel it advisable to send a delegation to the very country directing the operations of the air attack against Yugoslavia. Once their absence was confirmed, the Holy See agreed it would be better to delay the meeting until June.

          When meeting the members of the Orthodox delegation this morning, who were led by the Archbishop of Ephesus, John Paul II made it clear that the Kosovo war should not affect the dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox. "The heavy legacy of the past and the tensions that emerge among peoples sometimes affect the action of Churches, which must be aware of the historical and cultural contexts in which they live. But the one who calls us to unity is God himself. It was Christ who implored his Father for unity among his followers as a sign inviting the world to faith."

          In order insure that this ecumenical endeavor has the support of all the faithful, John Paul II decided to agree to Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople's proposal to introduce a very important date for all the Orthodox faithful in the Roman calendar for the celebrations of the Jubilee of the Year 2000: a day of prayer and fasting for unity among Christians, to be held on the Vigil of the Feast of the Transfiguration, August 6. In this way, the Pope explained, "I hope to express not only our desire to be associated with the initiatives of our brothers in the faith, but also our desire to make them participants in ours."

          The delegation of the ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople will attend a Mass at Saint Peter's presided by John Paul II. The Mass will be concelebrated by a group of Archbishops from around the world to whom the Pope will give the sacred pallium, the sign of jurisdiction and communion with the Apostolic See. ZE99062805

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June 29, 1999       volume 10, no. 125


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