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Monday, October 30, 2006


VATICAN CITY, OCT 30, 2006 (VIS) - At midday today, the Pope received prelates from the Greek Episcopal Conference, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit.

  The Holy Father began his address by referring to the "abundant influx" of Catholics from neighboring countries, which faces Greek bishops and clergy with "new requirements of ministerial service that are not easy to meet."

  Bearing in mind the diversity of languages and rites of the faithful, said Pope Benedict, "I believe the development of constructive dialogue with other episcopates is more than ever appropriate." From this, he added, will emerge "prudent decisions" on how to find the ministers and resources necessary. "Obviously, respect for specific identities must be borne in mind, but without sacrificing ... the life and plans of the Churches that Christ entrusted to you."

  The Holy Father called upon the prelates "to continue your efforts to encourage vocational pastoral care;" on the one hand "carefully cultivating the seeds of vocation," and on the other, "inviting Christian communities to pray more intensely" for a greater number of priestly and religious vocations, He also emphasized "the spiritual needs of so many immigrants who have found a dignified and cordial welcome in your country. This," he added, "is the style typical of your people."

  On the question of contact with the faithful of the Orthodox Church, who make up the majority of the Greek population, Benedict XVI highlighted the need "to intensify prayer so as to accelerate the coming of that blessed day when it will be granted us to break the Bread together, and drink together from the same Chalice." On this subject, he expressed his hope for the opening of "ever greater prospects of constructive dialogue between the Greek Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church," and for an increase in "shared spiritual, cultural and practical initiatives. Moreover, it is my pleasure to send my best wishes to His Beatitude Christodoulos, archbishop of Athens and of all Greece," and through him "to the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church and to all the faithful."

  The Pope affirmed that in his individual meetings with the Greek bishops, he had noted their "desire to see the State define their right to have an appropriate and recognized juridical status. Dialogue on this question is underway," he added, "a dialogue in which the Apostolic See is not the main player."

  "Apart from dialogue, this question also requires perseverance. It is unnecessary to add that the Catholic Church seeks no privileges, but only asks for her identity and mission to be recognized, in such a way as to be able effectively to make her contribution to the overall wellbeing of the noble Greek people, of which you are an integral part. With patience and respect for legitimate procedures it will be possible, with everyone's commitment, to achieve the desired agreement."

  The Holy Father concluded his talk by recalling the distress felt by many communities "at the internal displacement of their faithful. Many of them are scattered over the territory and this leads to difficulties in their relationships with their respective pastors. It is also phenomena such as this that reveal the importance of affective and effective unity among you bishops through greater internal coordination."
AL/.../GREECE                                VIS 20061030 (550)

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