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Greek leader warms to idea of papal visit
    The leader of Greece's Orthodox Church on Sunday said he would be willing to meet Pope John Paul II in Athens, despite strong reservations within the church to a papal visit.
    "If he comes, can I close the door on him?" Archbishop Christodoulos said. "Of course I would return the visit to Rome... these are the rules of politeness."
    Christodoulos began a series of meetings yesterday with church elders and is expected to examine the pope's possible trip to Athens.
    The government has formally invited the pope, after the Holy Father expressed interest in including Greece on a pilgrimage to Biblical sites. But the Orthodox church has said conditions are not "ripe" for such a trip. The invitation to the pope was extended in his capacity as head of state.
    The idea of rapprochement between Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians is widely viewed with suspicion and even hostility by the clergy in Greece, who often accuse the Vatican of trying to extend its influence eastward.
    Christodoulos held talks with the Vatican's envoy to Athens last month.
   
AP
   
9-Mar-01


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