Pope returns stolen relics to Ecumenical Orthodox Church
Pope John Paul II on Saturday returned the relics of two saints stolen during the crusades to the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, during a mass in Rome.
AFP reports that Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the move was "not a reparation nor a way for the pope to ask pardon in the name of the Catholic Church for taking the relics from the Ecumenical patriarch during the crusade in the 13th century".
The pope's gesture, he said, was "the expression of the sacred communication that exists between the Christian east and west."
The relics, which were to be carried in sealed containers to Istanbul on a special flight on Saturday, belonged to two former church doctors and patriarchs; Saint Gregory of Nazianze and Saint John Chrysostom.
Bartholomew I, sitting at the Pope's right-hand side, lauded the handover.
"This fraternal gesture by the church in Rome confirms that there are no insurmountable problems in the Church of Christ, when love, justice and peace come together in a spirit of reconcilation and the search for unity," he said.
"To tear apart the church does greater damage than heresy", he said, quoting Saint John Chrysostom, one of the two saints.
The Holy Father appeared in relatively good form during the mass, has recently endeavoured to improve long-hostile relations between Rome and the Orthodox Churches, which separated in a schism in 1054.
The Vatican's ties with the Russian Orthodox Church, which regularly accuses it of proselytism in traditionally Orthodox areas of the former Soviet Union, have been particularly difficult.
In August his ecumenical gesture to hand back an icon revered as sacred by the Russian Orthodox church failed to ease the strained Orthodox-Roman Catholic relations.
The crusaders sacked Constantinople, the city now called Istanbul, in 1204.
Pope returns stolen relics to Ecumenical Orthodox Church (Turkish News/Agence France Presse 28/11/04)
Pope returns relics to eastern Orthodox (Big News Network 28/11/04)
Pope bids to heal Orthodox rift (BBC 27/11/04)
Pope and Bartholomew I: may the Saints help us towards unity (AsiaNews.it 27/11/04)
Tomorrow November 27 Ecumenical Celebration in St Peter's. Relics of Ecumenical celebration: Pope John Paul II will make a gift of the Relics of St Gregory Nazianzen and St John Chrysostom to the Patriarch of Constantinople (Fides 25/11/04)
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to receive Relics of St. John Chrysostom (Hellenic News of America)
Return of Relics to Rekindle Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue (Zenit 26/11/04)
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Vatican Returns Relics to Istanbul (The Guardian/Associated Press 27/11/04)
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29 Nov 2004