During his meeting at the thens Archdiocese with the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, the Pontiff stated that "for the occasions past and present, when the sons and daughters of the Catholic Church have sinned by actions and omission against their Orthodox brothers and sisters, may the Lord grant us the forgiveness we beg of him."
In reference to the sacking of the Byzantine Empire's capital of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade – John Paul II said the that "the fact that they were Latin Catholics fills Catholics with profound regret."
In turn, Mr. Christodoulos, who applauded the Pontiff's statement, stated that not one word of remorse has been heard from the Vatican to date over the Orthodox world's grievances. The Archbishop also referred to Cyprus' ongoing occupation by the Turkish forces, while he also warned against what he called the "de-Christianization" of Europe. The Pontiff and the Archbishop met later in the afternoon where they issued a joint statement at the Areios Pagos Hill at the foot of the Acropolis to visit a spot where the Apostle Paul preached to the ancient Athenians in 51 A.D. Pope John Paul II is the first pontiff to visit Greece since the Great Schism of 1056, when Christianity was divided into Eastern and Western branches.
Tomorrow morning, the Pope will officiate at the Athens Olympic stadium's indoor basketball facility. The indoor stadium has a capacity of 18,000 people and their selection was made with great care for security reasons. The Pope is expected to sing hymns in Greek. After his departure from Athens tomorrow, the Pope will visit Damascus and Malta.
The statement also noted that the trend adopted by some European countries which have become secular states without any reference to religion, constitutes a retraction and denial of their spiritual heritage, adding that their strength will be devoted to having Europe's Christian roots and its Christian soul being preserved intact.
Referring to global economy, the two Church leaders also expressed concern over the fact that economic and technological development belongs to a very small sector of humanity and it is not accompanied by a probe of the concept and value of life. According to the joint statement, globalisation will have harmful consequences unless globalisation of fraternity is achieved.
The joint statement farther stressed that wars and sufferings are a daily reality for millions of people and for this reason the two Churches are committed to struggling for peace and calling, on the occasion of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, for the return of the ancient Olympic Truce.
Archbishop Christodoulos and the Pope expressed satisfaction over the European Union's success, underlining the importance of Europe's Christian roots, which should be preserved.
"We condemn any resorting to force, proselytisation and fanaticism in the name of religions. We insist, in particular, on relations between Christians, in all of their aspects, to be characterized by integrity, wisdom and knowledge of relevant issues," the statement said.
"We are watching that the scientific and social development of man is not accompanied by a probe into the concept and value of life which, in any case, is a gift of God, nor by a corresponding appreciation of the unique dignity of man. We ascertain with anxiety that wars, massacres, torturing and sufferings constitute the daily nightmarish reality for millions of our brothers.
"We are committed to struggling for peace all over the world, respect for life and the dignity of man and solidarity for all who are in need.
"We are watching attentively and with concern the process of globalisation with the hope that it will provide gracious fruit.
"We are satisfied with the success and progress of the European Union. The unification of the European world into one state entity, without peoples losing their conscience, national tradition and religious identity, was the vision of its leaders," it added.