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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-11-30

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Declaration by Ecumenical Patriarch, Pope furthers historic rappochement between churches of east, west

  • [01] Declaration by Ecumenical Patriarch, Pope furthers historic rappochement between churches of east, west

    An embrace by Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos and Pope Benedict XVI sealed a historic meeting in Istanbul on Thursday between two of Christendom's most venerable spiritual leaders, a symbolism-laden gesture amid ongoing and inquisitive deliberations around the world on how to dampen so-called "clashes of civilisations" and during a period when EU hopeful and predominately Muslim Turkey is coming under heightened European scrutiny. Benedict and his entourage of cardinals attended a grandiose church service at the Patriarchate's Aghios Georgios (St. George) Cathedral in the morning, officiated by the Patriarch himself, the "primus inter pares" amongst the world's Orthodox patriarchs and the spiritual leader of the Orthodox Christian congregations.

    The Pope began the third of his four-day official visit to Turkey by attending the mass celebrating the Orthodox Church's patron saint and founder, the Apostle Andrew, a service replete with the ecclesiastical splendour reminiscent of Byzantium -- nearly a millennium after the "Great Schism" that separated the churches of east and west.

    The two church leaders embraced at the gate before entering the cathedral. Afterwards, the Pope presented the Patriarch with a golden chalice, while Vartholomeos gifted the Pontiff with a gold-covered 200-year-old Bible from the NW Greek city of Ioannina.

    Earlier, Benedict and Vartholomeos jointly blessed a crowd of worshippers gathered in the Patriarchate's courtyard amid utterly draconian security measures in the old quarter district of Istanbul.

    Among the worshippers at the Cathedral were Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic and numerous foreign diplomats, including the entire Greek diplomatic mission in Turkey. The Greek government was represented by Macedonia-Thrace Minister George Kalantzis.

    In statements broadcast live by Greece's state television network, which carried the entire service as well, both church leaders emphasised the need to restore the "community of the two Churches" -- a canonical phrase for healing centuries-old rifts and misunderstandings -- while adding their satisfaction over progress in inter-Church and inter-faith dialogue so far.

    Vartholomeos and Benedict later retired to the Patriarchical throne's main chamber for discussions, along with their respective delegations.

    The Pope also referred to the "Ecumenical Patriarchate" in a brief rejoinder to Vartholomeos' address.

    In the afternoon, the leader of the world's Roman Catholics toured the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, Istanbul's supreme religious and historical landmarks.

    Common declaration

    Following the Divine Liturgy service, both men later signed a common declaration in the Patriarchate's throne room recalling their predecessors the meetings amongst them, namely, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, as well as Ecumenical Patriarchs Athenagoras and Dimitrios.

    Moreover, they called on the faithful of both denominations to strengthen their prayers and endeavours towards the unity of the Churches.

    According to the Patriarchate, the mutual statement continues a tradition that began in 1964 when Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras met in Jerusalem and later in Istanbul as well as Rome for the "purpose of deepening the renewed relationship between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches."

    The declaration notes that "as far as relations between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople (the official name of the Istanbul-based Patriarchate) are concerned, we cannot fail to recall the solemn ecclesial act effacing the memory of the ancient anathemas which for centuries had a negative effect on our Churches. We have not yet drawn from this act all the positive consequences which can flow from it in our progress towards full unity, to which the mixed Commission is called to make an important contribution. We exhort our faithful to take an active part in this process, through prayer and through significant gestures."

    Moreover, the two church leaders added that " the time of the plenary session of the mixed Commission for theological dialogue, which was recently held in Belgrade through the generous hospitality of the Serbian Orthodox Church, we expressed our profound joy at the resumption of the theological dialogue. This had been interrupted for several years because of various difficulties, but now the Commission was able to work afresh in a spirit of friendship and cooperation. In treating the topic 'Conciliarity and Authority in the Church' at local, regional and universal levels, the Commission undertook."

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