|HOLY FATHER MEETS ORTHODOX AND CATHOLIC CLERGY AND
VATICAN CITY, MAY 6, 2001 (VIS) - At 5 this afternoon, following his lunch and meeting earlier
with the patriarchs and bishops of Syria, as well as from neighboring countries, in the
Greek-Melkite Patriarchate of Damascus, Pope John Paul went to the Syrian Orthodox Cathedral for a meeting with
priests, religious and the laity of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Also present were
representatives of other Christian denominations.
He welcomed the patriarchs and bishops and extended "heartfelt greetings to the priests, monks and
nuns, religious men and women, and all the faithful here present. I am truly happy to be among you!"
The Holy Father recalled that he was in Damascus "as a pilgrim in the footsteps of St. Paul. It was on
the road to Damascus that the Apostle of Nations was claimed by Jesus Christ; and it was here that
he received the light of the Holy Spirit and was baptized. Here, the
Holy Spirit has now gathered us for this common prayer - to listen to the word of God, to implore His forgiveness for our sins and
divisions, and to praise His infinite mercies."
"Here in Damascus," he continued, "the disciple Ananias was told in a vision to go to Saul, the
persecutor of the Church. Despite his doubts and fears, Ananias obeyed the Lord and without
hesitation he addressed the enemy of the Christians as 'brother'. Here we see two essential marks of
the Church's mission: courageous obedience to God's word and a willingness to forgive and be
John Paul II went on to say that "two further marks of our call to discipleship (are) prayer and
endurance in the face of trials. Perhaps more than ever today, these will be the marks of our fidelity to
God: to pray, to carry the Cross, to obey God's will and to honor everyone as a brother or sister."
In closing remarks, the Holy Father paid "homage to the entire Syrian tradition, with its rich unity in
diversity," to its "wonderful creativity," and the figures in whom this appears: Sts. Paul, Ignatius of
Antioch, Ephraem, John Chrysostom, John Damascene and Simeon Stylites, "a living icon of holiness"
whose "prayer was ceaseless and his charity universal."