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Patriarchal Delegation Led by Archbishop Demetrios Completes Successful Visit to the Vatican

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Jul 2, 2003

VATICAN CITY – “Glory to the Holy, consubstantial, life-giving and indivisible Trinity, to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit…” exclaimed first in Greek and immediately following in English, Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox of America as he began his address to Pope John Paul II and the thousands of faithful that had gathered on June 29 in Saint Peter’s Square celebrating the patronal feast of the Church of Rome.

The Archbishop’s address was received with enthusiastic and repeated applause, as well as expressions of praise and gratitude by many diplomats and other officials present at the festivities.

The 4-day visit of the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to the Vatican, which was successfully completed on July 1, took place on the occasion of the patronal feast of the Roman Catholic Church, celebrating the feast of the Holy Apostles Sts. Peter and Paul. The visit was part of a continuing tradition of exchange visits during the patronal feasts of both Churches, a tradition that was initiated in 1967 by Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI.

The Delegation, which was led by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America and was comprised by His Grace Bishop Theodoritos of Nazianzos, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain and the V. Rev. Grand Archimandrite Athenagoras of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, on June 28, had a private audience with Pope John Paul II who also hosted them to a private lunch.

On the eve of the feast, the Delegation attended the Great Vespers service in the magnificent Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican and in the afternoon of June 29, the day of the feast, officially attended the celebrations held in Saint Peter’s Square.

In all occasions, Pope John Paul II in his homilies and speeches spoke of the Delegation and specifically of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Demetrios of America.

His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios of America in his addresses to the Pope, called for the continuation of the common efforts for overcoming the differences, which separate and divide the two Churches and for intensified work for rapprochement, reconciliation and unity.

The Archbishop also spoke of the important work for peace, international reconciliation and environmental protection that have been offered during the last 10 years by both Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as well as Pope John Paul II. He added that this common work would serve to motivate not only the continuation but also the expansion of efforts aiming at universally bringing Churches and religions closer together.

The official newspaper of the Vatican, “Observatore Romano”, extensively covered the festivities of the three-day celebration including the visit of the Patriarchal Delegation and published the entire address of Archbishop Demetrios and the various speeches of the Pope along with many photos, emphasizing the importance of the visit of the Patriarchal Delegation.

On Sunday, June 29, His Eminence and the members of the delegation attended the Divine Liturgy at the Greek Orthodox Church of Apostle Andrew, the First Called. The Archbishop conveyed to the faithful in attendance the patriarchal blessings of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and, citing the example of the Apostles Peter and Paul, who dedicated their lives to God, he called upon everyone to ponder whether they share the same mentality of the Apostles.

Within the framework of the visit, the Delegation was given a tour of the Basilica of Saint Peter, the catacombs and the archaeological sites which are under the Basilica, the Patriarchal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and the Church of Saint Theodoros which dates back to the 8th Century A.D., was recently bequeathed by the Roman Catholic Church to the Greek Orthodox community of Rome and is currently undergoing restoration.

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