.- The Vatican announced what could be a major breakthrough in ecumenical relations between the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches. In a communiqué this morning the Holy See Press Office announced that, “His Beatitude Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens and of all Greece, is to visit the Holy Father and the Church of Rome from December 13 to 16.”
The message noted that while, "the archbishop was in Rome for the funeral of His Holiness John Paul II, this is the first time that the primate of the Greek Orthodox Church makes an official visit to the Pope and to the Church of Rome."
“The Holy Father will receive His Beatitude Christodoulos and his entourage on the morning of December 14,” the Vatican confirmed. “At a ceremony in the basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, the archbishop of Athens and of all Greece will be given part of a chain - kept in that basilica - with which St. Paul was held prisoner.”
“Later,” the communiqué continues, "Rome's Pontifical Lateran University will confer an 'honoris causa' degree upon the illustrious guest."
The message points out how on November 3, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece expressed its "joy at this visit, the fruits of which will be positive."
In his 2001 pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Paul, John Paul II visited the Areopagus of Athens where he signed a joint declaration with His Beatitude Christodoulos, and was received by the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece. In subsequent years, visits have been exchanged between delegations from the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece, which came to Rome, and from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which went to Athens. These initiatives were followed by "fraternal and intense" contacts between the Catholic Church of Rome and the Orthodox Church of Greece.