Pope calls for cooperation among Christians against secularism in Europe
The Associated Press
Thursday, December 14, 2006
VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday urged Archbishop Christodoulos, head of the Orthodox Church of Greece, to work together to fight growing secularism in Europe.
The pope met Christodoulos at the Vatican in what was the archbishop's first visit since he attended the funeral of Pope John Paul II in April 2005.
Benedict said the Catholic and Orthodox churches must defend Europe's spiritual values.
"It is necessary to develop cooperation between Christians in each country of the EU, so as to face the new risks that confront the Christian faith, which is to say growing secularism, relativism and nihilism," the pope told the archbishop in a speech delivered in French.
Benedict has made the fight against growing secularism in Western society, especially in Europe, a theme of his pontificate.
Relations between Orthodox and Catholic churches have improved significantly in recent years, though they remain divided by long-standing questions of doctrine.
Calls for greater dialogue were strengthened when Benedict visited Turkey Nov. 28-Dec. 1 and met with Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians.
Before leaving for Rome, Christodoulos referred to "the scandal of the division of Christians" and spoke of a continuing, 25-year "dialogue that has as its aim to break the ice between the churches."
Christodoulos set his visit in a broader perspective, expressing "the need for collaboration of religions, and not only between the Christian churches." World peace "is threatened by the fanaticism of certain persons, on which they put the label of religion," he said.
The archbishop arrived on Wednesday for a four-day visit, which reciprocates Pope John Paul's trip to Athens in 2001.