Pope John Paul II Visiting Greece
Pope John Paul II will visit Athens on 4 and 5 May as part of a Biblical pilgrimage following the footsteps of the Apostle Paul, a Vatican official said on Tuesday.
The visit by the Holy Father is seen as a significant step forward in a broader effort to reconcile the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches.
Archbishop Leonardo Sandri announced the pope's visit after meeting with Archbishop Christodoulos, the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church. It was the first visit to Athens by a senior Vatican official after the Holy Synod, the governing body of the Greek church, in early March lifted its objections to a papal visit.
Attempts to heal a 1000 year estrangement between Catholics and the Orthodox are commonly viewed with hostility by the Greek clergy, who accuse the Vatican of trying to extend its influence eastward.
Christodoulos has come under pressure from priests, monks, nuns, and church groups to revoke the Holy Synod decision. The government has been urged to take steps to ensure the pope's security and prevent thousands of Orthodox zealots from holding mass protests in the capital.