Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and Pope Meet in Lebanon

August 24, 1997

His Beatitude, Ignatius IV, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, had a private meeting with Pope John Paul II during the Pope's visit to Lebanon on May 11.

The meeting which lasted about 30 minutes, took place after a dinner at the Maronite Patriarchate in Beirut. According to the Lebanese daily Al-Nahar, the Pope spoke about the need not only to resume Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, but also to accelerate it.

He emphasized that any obstacles that have arisen do not justify not speaking about positive things and consolidating the progress already made.

For his part, Patriarch Ignatius emphasized the concept of "sister churches" which is being used more and more by Catholic theologians in reference to the Orthodox Churches. He said that the concept must give rise to concrete results on the ground in Catholic-Orthodox relations. For the Patriarch, it is important to give meaning to the expression in all its implications, especially insofar as it implies recognition by Rome of the importance and sepcificity of the Eastern Churches.

The Patriarch also informed the Pope that at the beginning of the year he addressed a letter to the heads of the Orthodox Churches inviting them to move the dialogue with Rome forward, emphasizing the need to improve relations with Rome, and to move from confrontation to cooperation. He wrote that it is not necessary to await total unity before accentuating and consolidating that which has already been achieved.

(Source: Service Orthodoxe de Presse, June 1997).

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