POPE JOHN PAUL II IN GREECE, SYRIA, AND MALTA (4-9 MAY 2001)

Welcome Ceremony Address at Presidential Palace of Athens
The Holy Father, after landing at the international airport of Athens on Friday morning, 4 May 2001, went to the Presidential Palace, where a ceremony of welcome took place. In his address to the President, Mr. Kostas Stephanopoulos, the Pope said, "My wish is in some way to recognize the great debt which we all owe to Greece".

Address to Holy Synod
On the afternoon of Friday, 4 May 2001, the Holy Father went to the Palace of the Archbishop of Athens and of all Greece, Archbishop Christodoulos, to pay a formal visit to him and the Holy Synod. He addressed the Greek Orthodox authorities in English. "For all the occasions past and present, when sons and daughters of the Catholic Church have sinned by action or omission against their Orthodox brothers and sisters, may the Lord grant us the forgiveness we beg of him".

Address to Catholic Bishops of Greece
In the late afternoon of Friday, 4 May 2001, after the visits to the President and the Orthodox Archbishop of Athens, the Holy Father met with the Catholic Bishops of Greece. "You are the 'frontier' Bishops: because of the particular conditions in which you are living, you greatly desire the obstacles which stand in the way of full union ... to be quickly overcome".

Common Declaration
On Friday evening, 4 May 2001, at 6:30 p.m., the Holy Father met His Beatitude Christodoulos, the Orthodox Archbishop of Athens and Primate of Greece, at the Areopagus, where they listened to the reading of Acts 17:22-34, venerated the ikon of St Paul the Apostle and then listened to Cardinal Sodano who read in English the Common Declaration. In the Declaration, the Pope and Archbishop express their desire for unity among all Christians, their concern for justice to the poor, for peace, for a "globalization of brotherhood", and an acknowledgement from nations of the European Union of their Christian roots.

Mass at the Sport Palace in Athens
On Saturday, 5 May 2001, the Holy Father celebrated Mass at the Sport Palace in the complex of the Olympic Centre of Athens: "In order to proclaim the good News to the men and women of our time, the Church must be attentive to their cultures and their ways of communicating, without allowing the Gospel message to be altered or its meaning or scope diminished".

Address at Arrival in Damascus
On Saturday afternoon, 5 May 2001, the Holy Father arrived in Syria at the international airport of Damascus, where he was met by various ecclesiastical and civil authorities, including the President of the Syrian Arab Republic, Dr Bashar Al-Assad. The Holy Father spoke in English: "I come as a pilgrim of faith".

Address to Ecumenical Gathering
The Holy Father together with His Beatitude Ignace I Hazim, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, His Holiness, Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, and other representatives of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities of the country met in the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Dormition of Our Lady in Damascus on Saturday evening of 5 May 2001. In his address, the Holy Father recalled the original unity of the first Christian communities in the Patriarchate of Antioch.

Mass in the Abbassyin Stadium of Damascus
On Sunday morning, 6 May 2001, the Holy Father celebrated Mass at the Abbassyin Stadium of Damascus. In his homily he spoke of the Conversion of St Paul, which took place nearby, as an "extraordinary event" which was "decisive for the future of Paul and the Church". The homily is followed by the Pope's short Regina Caeli message, in which he remarks on the devotion of Syrian Christians to the Mother of God.

Meeting With Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops
On Sunday 6 May 2001, the Holy Father went to the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchal Palace in Damascus to dine with the Patriarchs and 35 Catholic bishops of Syria along with the Cardinals and Bishops of the Papal entourage, which included the Greek Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox Patriarchs. The Pope spoke of Christ's presence with us, which is demanding as well as consoling, obliging us "not to keep for ourselves the treasure we have received".

Address to Catholic and Orthodox Faithful
On Sunday evening 6 May 2001, the Holy Father went to the Syrian Orthodox Cathedral of St. George in Damascus where he met with clergy, religious men and women and important laity of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. "These will be the marks of our fidelity to God: to pray, to carry the Cross, to obey God's will, and to honour everyone as a brother or sister."

Address to Muslims of Damascus
On Sunday evening, 6 May 2001, the Holy Father left the Syrian Orthodox cathedral to go to the Umayyad Great Mosque of Damascus, to visit the memorial of St John the Baptist with the Grand Mufti, Shiek Ahmad Kuftaro, and other Muslim authorities. The Holy Father addressed the Muslims in the courtyard of the mosque.

Prayer at Qunaytra on the Golan Heights
On Monday morning, 7 May 2001, after visiting the places of the Apostle Paul, the Holy Father traveled to Qunaytra, on the Golan Heights, where he offered this prayer in a Greek Orthodox church.

Address to Young People in Damascus
On Monday evening, 7 May 2001, in the Melkite Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Dormition of Our Lady, the Holy Father met with young people for a session of prayer and personal witness. In his his address, delivered in French, he said, "Christ is calling you and awakening in you a desire to make your life something magnificent and beautiful".

Departure From Damascus
On Tuesday morning, 8 May 2001, at the international airport of Damascus, the Holy Father took his formal leave from the Syrian Arab Republic in a ceremony at which he gave the following address. "The world looks to the Middle East with hope and concern, expectantly awaiting every sign of constructive dialogue ...."

Arrival in Malta
The Holy Father's Jubilee pilgrimage to Malta "in the footseps of the Apostle Paul", began with ceremonies at Gudja International Airport, Malta, where he arrived from Syria at on Tuesday, 8 May 2001. On hand to welcome the Pope were Mr Guido Di Marco, President, and Archbishop Joseph Mercieca, with dignitaries of Church and State. "For two millennia you have been faithful to the vocation involved in that singular encounter [with St Paul]", he said.

Malta Mass of Beatification
On Wednesday, 9 May 2001, the Holy Father presided at Mass in Granaries Square, Floriana, for the beatification of three Servants of God, the first Maltese to be raised to the honours of the altar: Fr George Preca, founder of the Society of Christian Doctrine, Ignatius Falzon, a devout layman, and Sr Maria Adeodata Pisani, professed nun of the Order of St Benedict. The Pope recalled the famous devotion and missionary zeal of the Maltese. Concluding remarks after the Mass recalled those he had wished to meet though unable.

Address to the Society of Christian Doctrine
On Wednesday, 9 May 2001, the Holy Father venerated the relics of Bl. Dun Gorg Preca in the Church of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal at Hamrun. He was welcomed to the Church by the Superiors of the men's and women's branches of the Society of Christian Doctrine, founded by the new blessed in 1907 to train young people to gave a religious formation to others. at the end of the liturgy of the Word, the Holy Father addressed the members on planting the seed of God's Word.

Farewell to Malta
On Wednesday evening, 9 May 2001, the Holy Father departed for Rome from the International Airport of Gudja. His farewell address was in English. "The future of peace in the world depends on strengthening dialogue and understanding between cultures and religions. Continue in your traditions".


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