On Monday, 11 March, at the beginning of the audience of the delegation
of the Greek Orthodox Church of Athens with the Holy Father,
Metropolitan Panteleimon of Attica, Greece, addressed the Pope in
French. Here is a translation.
Please accept with our sentiments of respect our heartfelt thanks for
your words of affection for our Church and for your cordial and
We all recall with deep respect and warmth your pilgrimage to Athens
and to the Areopagus, in the blessed footsteps of the Apostle Paul,
founder and spiritual Patron of the Church of Greece. Your visit to us,
which was truly blessed, opened new horizons and made more cordial the
relations between our two apostolic Churches.
Fraternal collaboration is needed
Our presence here at the Holy See will enable us to know you better,
so that we may collaborate fraternally on themes of common interest and
on practical problems, that will lead us to face effectively together
the questions of vital importance that arise daily on the horizons of
our united Europe and in the whole world.
Until now, exchanges between our two Churches have been limited to
the theological dialogue, with its real difficulties. We must now start
to collaborate on practical matters of a moral and social kind, a
collaboration that we hope will prove easier and more effective than
that of the theological dialogue. Moreover, our collaboration in
practical areas will make easier the theological dialogue.
In the past, historical situations and misfortunes have created, not
unreasonably, among most of our people, our clergy, and, above all, our
monks, an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion towards Western
Christianity. Thus a certain amount of bitterness has been
The hierarchy of our Church is making great efforts to change this
atmosphere, to heal the wounds of the past and to return to the original
spirit of Christian brotherhood and love.
Return to communion of first 10 centuries
For 10 centuries our Churches lived and moved forward together. For
the following 10 centuries they were separated and took different paths.
At the dawn of the 21st century, it is our duty to return to the common
path of the first 10 centuries.
This will not be easy! It will be difficult to forget 10
centuries of division, marred by a certain amount of mistakes and
bitterness. We will have to make efforts, to struggle and above all,
To reach this goal we ask you for your understanding and your
effective and sincere help.
New era of Christian love and effective collaboration
Our visit to you, the first by an official delegation of the Church
of Greece, is important and momentous. We hope that the present
approach, that aims to improve our knowledge of one another, will be an
important step in this new journey of love, collaboration and unity.
We warmly thank you once again for inviting us, for welcoming us and
for giving us the opportunity to become better acquainted with the
important work carried out by your Roman congregations. We hope that our
presence here may serve to achieve our goal and open a new era of
Christian love and effective collaboration between our two Churches.
At the end, allow me to present a message that the Archbishop of
Athens and Primate of the Church of Greece, His Beatitude Christodoulos
addresses to you, and to offer you the gift he has sent to you as a
souvenir of our historic visit to the Holy See of Rome.
LETTER TO POPE JOHN PAUL IIArchbishop Christodoulos
On Monday, 11 March, the first delegation of the Orthodox Church of
Greece to visit the Holy See presented to the Holy Father a cordial
Letter of the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All
Greece, dated 4 March. Metropolitan Panteleimon of Attica led the five
members who were Metropolitan Timotheos of Kerkyra and Paxos; Bishop
Ioannis of Thermopylae; Bishop Athanasios of Achaia and Rev.
Archimandrite Ignatios Sotiriadis. Here is a translation of the
Primate's Letter, written in Italian.
This is truly a happy day on which our holy apostolic Churches of
Rome and Greece meet here for the first time in history at the martyrion
(shrine) of the Protocorypheus, St Peter the Apostle, for reasons of
mutual acquaintance and reciprocal collaboration.
Greece gave three holy Popes
Great and important historical are the ties that bind the Apostolic
Church of Greece, in particular that of Athens, to the Apostolic Roman
See of St Peter. In addition to the presence and martyrdom in Rome of St
Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles and founder of our Church, our See of
Athens is proud to have offered to Rome three holy Popes, your
Predecessors: Anacletus, Hyginus and Sixtus II.
Forms of vital collaboration
The blood of their martyrdom for faith in Christ the Lord continues
to be an incentive to us today to witness before the contemporary world
the values of the Christian faith, on which are founded European culture
Without denying the dogmatic and doctrinal realities that separate us
and prevent our oratio communis and communio in sacris, in
spite of all this, we are able to collaborate in the social, cultural,
educational, ecological and bioethical fields for the good of humanity.
Bridge of communication, reconciliation and confidence
Our sending the delegation of our Church to the Church of Rome aims
at building a bridge of communication, reconciliation and confidence
between us in the European Union, so that our witness as Christians may
be more intense, more. credible and more effective in a society that
stands to lose its traditional values of faith in Christ the Redeemer.
With these thoughts, Your Holiness, and with trust in divine
Providence who opens new paths for the good of the Church, and, asking
the intercession of the Blessed Theotokos for the inauguration of
our collaboration, I greet fraternally in the Name of the Lord.
Archbishop of Athens
and All Greece