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Catholic World News News Feature

Greek Orthodox leader to visit Pope in December November 03, 2006

Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens, the ranking prelate of the Greek Orthodox Church, will travel to Rome for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in December, officials of the Orthodox Church have announced.

Greece was one of the Orthodox countries in which suspicions of the Catholic Church remained most pronounced through the 20th century, and the Orthodox Synod was initially reluctant to accept a visit by Pope John Paul II. But the late Pope disarmed critics when he visited Athens in 2001 and issued an apology for the Crusaders' sacking of Constantinople nearly 1,000 years earlier-- an offense still borne in the memories of the Orthodox believers who make up 98% of the Greek population.

Having made some progress in overcoming Greek hostility, Pope John Paul issued an invitation to Archbishop Christodoulos to return his visit. Now that the Greek prelate is set for a trip to the Vatican, the Greek Church announced, "The Holy Synod expressed its joy that this visit will be carried out."

Archbishop Christodoulos will be the first prelate of the Greek Orthodox Church to make an official visit to the Vatican since the Great Schism of 1054. Although he was in Rome for the funeral of Pope John Paul II, that was not considered an official visit.

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