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First official visit of an orthodox archbishop to the Pope

 

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S. B. Christodoulos, a marist alumnus

28/12/2006: Greece

Archbishop Christodoulos, head of the Greek Orthodox Church, expressed hope that his historic meeting with Benedict XVI will lead to a joint declaration in favor of recognizing Europes Christian roots.
The meeting concluded with the signature of a common declaration on the part of the two religious leaders in which the collaboration of orthodox and catholic is reaffirmed particularly in the defense of life and in the recovery of the Christian roots in Europe.
It was not the first visit of the Greek archbishop to the Vatican, but it was the first time he visited a Pope. His Beatitude Christodoulos had met the cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the Cardinals College, in the funeral honors for John Paul II, April 8, 2005.

For insight into todays visit and its ecumenical repercussions, ZENIT interviewed Monsignor Dimitrios Salachas, of the Greek-Catholic Apostolic Exarchy of Athens.

The monsignor is a professor of canon law in Rome, and a consultor for the Congregation for Eastern Churches, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and other Roman Curia organizations.
We bring in here one of the questions in that interview:

The archbishop Christodoulos studied at Leonteion Catholic School run by the Marist Brothers in Athens. Did this fact lead him to be open to the dialogue between orthodox and catholic?

It is true. Personally we know each other from the times when we were fellow students at the same Catholic college.
With no doubt this fact had a decisive influence in his later career as a priest, bishop and now archbishop of Athens and Head of the Greek Orthodox Church; it surely raised in him an interest to get to know about the aggiornamento carried out by the Council Vatican II in the Catholic Church.
All this makes him particularly sensitive to the dialogue between orthodox and catholic on the road toward unity.
Obviously, to promote the union of the Christian, both orthodox and catholic, their shepherds’ involvement for testimony and guide is essential.
But that is not enough; it is necessary the implication of all the other shepherds and faithful, both catholic and orthodox, at a regional or local level.
Hwever, to be realistic, we must recognize that this implication does not occur sufficiently all the time in certain orthodox ecclesiastical contexts in Greece.
In fact, the archbishops visit and his meeting the Pope is a courageous action which takes place in an atmosphere that is not shared by a part of the orthodox hierarchy, but it is understood in the line of an overall dialogue in charity and truth between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. Thee Church of Greece takes an active part in this dialogue.

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