Patriarch: Pope to visit Istanbul
The visit could help heal the centuries-old schism between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, church representatives say.
By ROBIN STEIN
Published January 6, 2006
[Times photo: Kathleen Flynn]
|His All Holiness Bartholomew, left, and His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, who heads the Greek Orthodox Church in America, speak Thursday at a news conference in Palm Harbor.
PALM HARBOR - Pope Benedict XVI has agreed to make a historic visit to the headquarters of the Eastern Orthodox Church in Istanbul, the Orthodox patriarch announced Thursday.
The trip, which has not been scheduled, will be the first time a Roman Catholic pope has made such a visit since 1979. It could go a long way toward healing a schism that has existed for nearly 1,000 years.
It also will mark the formal reopening of reconciliation talks, which had been under way between the two faiths for more than 30 years before breaking down in 2000.
"We are going to restart the dialogue on the international global level between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church," said His All Holiness Bartholomew, whose Greek comments were translated by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America.
"We are in very good relationships with the present pope, Benedict XVI," the patriarch said during a news conference at the Westin Innisbrook Resort.
The patriarch, in Tarpon Springs for the 100th annual Epiphany celebration, is the spiritual leader of 250-million Orthodox Christians worldwide.
In a statement reported Dec. 15 by the Catholic News Service, the pope said he rejoiced at the desire to "take up again and pursue the dialogue which, over the past few years, had known serious internal and external difficulties."
Despite a dispute over Eastern European parishes that stalled the reconciliation process, relations were warm between Pope John Paul II and the current patriarch, who has led the Orthodox Church since 1991.
The patriarch went to Rome several times over the past few years, most recently in November 2004 for a ceremony in which holy relics were returned to the Orthodox Church.
In recent years, there have been efforts to arrange a papal visit to the Patriarchate, the equivalent of the Vatican for Roman Catholics.
The Eastern Orthodox Church has been headquartered in present-day Turkey since the fourth century A.D., when Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire east, to a city he named Constantinople. The city remained the single worldwide center of Christianity until the Catholic Church broke away in the Great Schism in 1054.
The Patriarchate has existed throughout the Ottoman Empire, the Byzantium Empire and the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923. Today, however, there are only about 2,500 Orthodox Christians in Turkey, which is 99 percent Muslim.
The patriarch invited the pope during Benedict's enthronement ceremony last year, said Starvros H. Papageramanos, a spokesman for the Orthodox Church in America.
Originally, the pope was supposed to come in November, but diplomatic pressures between the Orthodox Church, Turkey and the Vatican delayed his trip.
Instead, a papal delegation arrived with a letter from the pope.
"I myself would have wished to be present," he wrote.
While no date for the historic visit has been set, it is expected to happen sooner rather than later, said officials with the Orthodox Church.
[Last modified January 6, 2006, 01:30:09]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]