Finally! After 800 years!
Pope makes gesture to Orthodox Church
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
VATICAN CITY -- The pope won't be going to Istanbul, but in a gesture to
the Orthodox Church he is returning the relics of two saints that were
seized by Crusaders 800 years ago, Vatican officials said Thursday.
Ecumenical Patriarch Barthlomew I of Constantinople, the spiritual leader
of Orthodox Christians, had asked for the return of the relics when he met
with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in June. At that time, he also
invited the pope to visit the seat of the Orthodox Church in Istanbul.
Because of the 84-year-old pontiff's frail condition, the Vatican has
reduced his foreign travel and he won't make the trip to Istanbul. John
Paul visited Istanbul in 1979.
Instead, a Vatican delegation will return the relics at the end of November
for the Orthodox feast day of Saint Andrew, officials said.
The relics - the bones of the patriarchs Saints John Chrysostom and Gregory
Nazianzen - disappeared from Constantinople, the modern day Istanbul, in
the sack of 1204 by Crusaders. They have been kept in St. Peter's Basilica.
The patriarch's June visit was intended to underline both sides' commitment
to Christian unity and to restart stalled theological talks.
Christianity split into Western and Eastern branches in the 11th century
over the growing power of the papacy, an issue that remains a principal
source of division.
During his talks with Barthlomew, the pope had restated his remorse for the
sacking of Constantinople that contributed to the collapse of the Byzantine
Empire about three centuries later.