.- This morning, the Holy Father received His Beatitude Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens and of all Greece, who is making an historic official visit to the Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI recounted the strong relationship between the Roman and Greek worlds since the beginning of Christianity and called for a renewed effort to deepen relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Christians.
The archbishop’s trip, which will run from Thursday to Sunday, is the first official visit ever by a prelate of the Church of Greece to the Vatican.
Prior to his audience with the Pope, the archbishop visited St. Peter's Basilica where he prayed at the tomb of John Paul II.
Archbishop Christodoulos also took part in a press conference upon his arrival in Rome yesterday. The archbishop told reporters that the visit for the discussion of dogmatic issues, but "the reinforcement of ties and cooperation in mutual love between the two Churches and the encouragement of our efforts for peace and the unity among us, because the world is asking from our Christian churches to cooperate for consolidating peace, justice and love among human societies."
"We are certain that our contacts at the Vatican will contribute to the cementing of our common wish for more love and cooperation in sectors that touch on contemporary social needs and problems," he added.
"Throughout humanity today there is talk for the need of cooperation between religions and not only between Christian churches,” said Archbishop Christodoulos. “And this, because we must, in every possible way, safeguard peace in the world which is threatened many times by certain fanatical people who hide behind and act under the guise of religion."
In remarks Wednesday before his departure, Archbishop Christodoulos referred to "the scandal of the division of Christians" and spoke of a continuing, 25-year "dialogue that has as its aim to break the ice between the Churches and collaboration on other levels not related to our doctrines," reported The Associated Press.
Relations between Orthodox and Catholic Churches have improved significantly in recent years.