Address and Letter to the Holy Father

Author: Metropolitan Panteleimon, Archbishop Christodoulos


Metropolitan Panteleimon

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.

Your Holiness,

Please accept with our sentiments of respect our heartfelt thanks for your words of affection for our Church and for your cordial and brotherly welcome.

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 accumulated.

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 willbe 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, pray fervently.

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.

Archbishop 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.

Your Holiness,

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 tohave 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 and civilization.

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.

H.B. Christodoulos
Archbishop of Athens
and All Greece  

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
20 March 2002, page 4

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