ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH WELCOMES POPE'S VISIT TO GREECE
Published by the Athens News Agency, March 22, 2001
ISTANBUL, March 22, 2001 (ANA) -- Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos
welcomed the upcoming visit by Pope John Paul II to Greece in early May,
stressing that he hopes the elderly pontiffs pilgrimage will contribute
to "a climate of unity, brotherhood and love."
Vartholomeos spoke from the southern Italian region of Calabria, which
still hosts a noteworthy Greek-speaking community in lands known during
antiquity as "Magna Graecia", after accepting an invitation by the
regional government of Calabria, the council of Roman Catholic bishops
and the Orthodox Metropolis of Italy.
John Paul II will visit Greece on May 4 and 5 at a time when the
Patriarch will also be in the predominately Eastern Orthodox country in
the northeastern Greek city of Xanthi between May 2-3 and nearby Serres
from May 5-6.
The Autocephalus Church of Greeces influential Holy Synod last week
acquiesced to a pilgrimage by John Paul II the first-ever by a pontiff
to the modern Greek state and the first by a Roman Catholic pope in
Greece proper for more than 1,200 years.
ITALY EMBRACES PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE: ORTHODOX LEADER WELCOMED IN
Published by Zenit, March 21, 2001
ROME, March 21, 2001 (Zenit) -- The patriarch of Constantinople is
receiving a warm welcome in Italy's southern region of Calabria, during
a visit which officials said could help overcome the 1,000-year schism
between Rome and the East.
Patriarch Bartholomew I received honors befitting a head of state as he
toured Calabria. The patriarch's visit, which began Monday, will
culminate Thursday in an ecumenical prayer meeting that is part of the
events of the fourth congress of the local Catholic Churches of Sicily.
"I am happy to be able to visit this land, a crossroads between the
Western and Eastern world," the patriarch said. As "primus inter pares"
among Orthodox bishops, the patriarch is a symbol of the communion of
the Orthodox Churches. "I think this visit will be a contribution to a
new rapprochement between Catholics and Orthodox," he added.
The Catholic Church described the patriarch's visit as "a historic
event," to quote Archbishop Antonio Cantisani of Catanzaro, president of
the bishops' conference of Calabria. This was the first time that the
most important leader of the Orthodox Christian world set foot in this
region, which at one time was part of the Eastern Roman Empire.
Bartholomew I spoke in perfect Italian, a language he learned when he
studied canon law at the Gregorian University in Rome. No sooner he was
named ecumenical patriarch in 1991, he established the Greek Orthodox
Archdiocese of Italy, in the hope of revivifying the Orthodox presence
in the West.
The patriarch of Constantinople has jurisdiction over a few thousand
Orthodox Christians, a flock spread primarily over what today is Muslim
Turkey. The fact that the community is small, gives the patriarch more
time and freedom to assume an international role and, in particular, to
gather the Orthodox of the diaspora around the patriarchate.
This was the purpose of the patriarch's visit to Italy. It presupposes
the "culmination of a long period of rediscovery of the Greek-Orthodox
roots in this region," said Archimandrite Nilos Vatopedino, vicar
general for the Calabrias of the Italian Orthodox Archdiocese.
The Catholic Church has supported the Orthodox who live in these
European Catholic countries. The Pope has just given the patriarch a
church in Rome so that his faithful can have a place of meeting. Some
currents of the different Orthodox Churches, however, deny Catholics the
right to evangelize in Orthodox lands.