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Greek Church's Holy Synod covers final details of pope's pilgrimage

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    2001.04.38 ANA : Greek Church s Holy Synod covers final details of pope s pilgrimage Athens, 28/04/2001 (ANA) The outspoken head of the Greek Church told the
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1, 2001
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      2001.04.38 ANA :
      Greek Church's Holy Synod covers final details of pope's pilgrimage

      Athens, 28/04/2001 (ANA)

      The outspoken head of the Greek Church told the influential Holy Synod
      that he will outline the Orthodox world's grievances vis-'-vis the Roman
      Catholic Church to Pope John Paul II next week, during the latter's
      unprecedented pilgrimage to Athens.

      The unscheduled meeting on Friday by the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of
      Greece's Holy Synod was convened to focus directly on the pontiff's visit
      to Athens late next week, the first ever by a Roman Catholic leader to the
      modern Greek state.

      Church officials said Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos
      will greet John Paul II "by bringing to his attention -- with frankness,
      clarity as well as with theological and historical documentation -- all of
      those dogmatic, ecclesiastical and historical issues that provoke sadness,
      bitterness and intense concern among the Orthodox world, with particular
      emphasis on the problem of the Uniate."

      According to reports, Christodoulos is also expected to issue a nationwide
      message early next week reiterating that Orthodox Christian Greeks "have
      nothing to fear from the pope", conceivably part of the Greek Church's
      efforts over the past few weeks to blunt expected opposition from Orthodox
      zealots and ultra-conservative followers of the Julian calendar.

      Along those lines, a rally at a downtown Athens hotel was scheduled only a
      few hours after the Holy Synod meeting, organized by a pair of
      high-profile university Orthodox theologians to protest the pontiff's
      pilgrimage in

      The Holy Synod again reiterated that the Greek Church would be
      represented on three occasions during the pope's historic two-day stay in
      Athens. Those include a visit by the pope to the Athens Archbishopric,
      where he will be received by Christodoulos, as well as during a pilgrimage
      ceremony at the foot of the Acropolis, and finally, during a reciprocal
      visit by the Greek Church Primate to John Paul II at a Vatican-owned
      residence in the Greek capital. A joint prayer service was, however, ruled out.

      The Polish-born pope will arrive in Athens on the morning of May 4 aboard
      an Alitalia flight from Rome, with a small welcoming ceremony to be held at
      the airport. Afterwards, he will be officially received at the presidential

      The pope was invited to the predominately Greek Orthodox country by
      President Kostis Stephanopoulos after the Vatican had publicly aired the
      pontiff's long-standing desire to visit the Greek capital as part of a
      retracing of the Apostle Paul's journeys in Europe.

      The Orthodox and Catholic churches split in 1056 after centuries of often
      contentious relations, whereas the latest point of friction relates to what
      Orthodox church leaders claim are unfair attempts by the Vatican to
      proselytize in traditionally Orthodox lands, primarily in the Ukraine,
      through the Uniate Church.

      The Uniate church, with congregation of approximately one million faithful,
      uses the rites of the Orthodox Church but owes allegiance to the Vatican.
      Nikos Dimou Says Orthodox Close-Minded About Pope

      ATHENS, Greece, MAY 1, 2001 (ZENIT.org-FIDES).- Not all Greek theologians
      and intellectuals are opposed to John Paul II's visit.

      "The Orthodox are forgetting Christ's command to love," Greek writer and
      journalist, Nikos Dimou, told the Vatican agency Fides. Dimou, 66, is
      called the "Greek Noam Chomsky," because of the variety of his writings,
      which include prose, poetry, essays and philosophical works.

      Dimou, a baptized Orthodox Christian, describes himself as a "secular
      intellectual." He is critical of the Orthodox Church, ever "more closed and
      diffident of anything to do with the West. [Orthodox Archbishop]
      Christodoulos said openly that he was forced to accept the visit."

      Commenting on the present climate in Athens, Dimou said: "I fail to
      understand how insignificant, dogmatic differences can make them forget
      Christ's command, 'Love one another, love your enemies!'"

      On Monday, almost 700 fundamentalists protested in Athens against the papal
      visit, shouting "the Pope out of Greece." The Holy Father is due to arrive

      The protesters, who gathered in front of the University of Athens, were
      convened by the Greek-Orthodox Sotiria Movement, and, in the main, were
      elderly people, including monks and nuns.

      But Orthodox bishops appealed to the faithful to respect the visit.
      "Reactions of this kind are not right," they said in a statement. "In the
      eyes of other Europeans, we might appear as religious fanatics or

      Dimou said, "Intolerance should be alien to every Christian. Two years ago,
      the holy fathers of Mount Athos made a serious mistake when they declared
      the Pope persona non grata. Today, they are repeating their error: He is
      simply an aging priest who wants to make a pilgrimage in the footsteps of
      St. Paul."

      "They are going against Greek tradition, for which hospitality is sacred,"
      he continued. "All the more so, when it is a question of the leader of the
      world's largest Christian confession, the spiritual leader in countries
      that are our European partners. It is humiliating for Greeks to be labeled
      as intolerant, nationalist fanatics."

      "Among the historical reasons for their anti-Pope attitude, the Orthodox
      bishops include the Fourth Crusade," Dimou noted, "but then we would have
      to declare everyone non grata: Franks, Serbs, Venetians, Germans, Romans!
      How can they continue to refer to events that happened 1,000 years ago?
      They are ruining our country's image abroad!"

      Regarding latest developments and the statement issued by the Orthodox
      Church's Holy Synod about the papal visit, Dimou revealed: "There is
      resentment and new fear in the Holy Synod's attitude."

      "The Orthodox Church feels besieged, as the whole country does at times,"
      he added. "There is a feeling that we are the only depositaries of truth:
      This increases a sense of deep insecurity and the conviction that we live
      in a hostile, indifferent world. In my opinion, this is the source of the
      widespread anti-West feeling in the country."

      On the whole, the Greek press "failed to criticize the position taken by
      the Orthodox leaders, heightening the climate of hostility: It is clear
      that the majority of Orthodox Greeks have a distorted and negative idea of
      Catholicism, the role and person of the Pope," he said. "Thank God ...
      there are exceptions!"

      At the political level, the Greek writer said that "the Orthodox Church
      gave its 'nulla osta' for the visit, to avoid open conflict with the
      government, although Christodoulos, hostage of fundamentalist groups, has
      said more than once that this is not the time for a papal visit."
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