New York, NY - Responding to the request of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of over 250 million Orthodox Christians around the world, and recognizing the importance of St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory the Theologian to Orthodox Christians around the world, Pope John Paul II has agreed to return the relics of these two great Fathers of the Church and Ecumenical Teachers to their original resting place in the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will travel to The Vatican to officially receive the relics from the Pope in a ceremony on November 27, 2004 and accompany them to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope John Paul have both emphasized reconciliation between the two churches, split since 1054. The return of the relics is a step towards such reconciliation.
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America will be in Rome for the ceremonies of the handing over of the sacred relics of the two Saints and Fathers of the Church. Also present there will be His Eminence Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore whom Archbishop Demetrios in
vited in order for the two of them to represent the faithful of the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church in America in such an auspicious event for both Churches.
Accompanying His All Holiness when he returns the relics will be a delegation including His Eminence Walter Cardinal Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, and other Catholic hierarchs and officials. Because of his frail condition the Pope will not be able to attend. Upon their arrival, a Pan-Orthodox Ceremony will be held, and the relics will be enshrined in the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George.
The relics of St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory the Theologian were taken from Constantinople in 1204 by mercenary crusaders. They ended up in Rome where they have been kept in St. Peter's Basilica.
Both Saints were famed preachers, theologians and predecessors of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the throne of Constantinople, St. Gregory from 379 to 381 and St. John from 398 to 404. St. John Chrysostom, meaning Golden Mouth, is considered by theologians to be the foremost orator and preacher for the Orthodox Church. Orthodox Christians worldwide follow his words as they participate in the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. St. Gregory, an intellectual, theologian and religious leader, is known as the most eloquent voice in the Second Ecumenical Synod (Constantinople, A.D.381), which completed the Nicene Creed as we know it today.