ADDRESS OF JOHN PAUL II
Monday, 2 September 2002
1. I am pleased to welcome you, Excellency, to the Vatican for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Hellenic Republic to the Holy See.
I thank you very much for conveying to me the courteous message of President Constantinos Stephanopoulos. With delight I recall his visit to me in the Vatican last January and I would be grateful if you would express my cordial best wishes for him, as well as for all of the Greek people.
2. Mr Ambassador, at the beginning of our exchange, I would like to recall the visit to your country that I made last year, during my Jubilee pilgrimage in the steps of St Paul. Grateful to God who granted me the grace to make this much desired journey, I cherish a vivid memory of the warm welcome of the President and the Greek authorities. I warmly recall my meeting with His Beatitude Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens and of All Greece. On the particularly evocative site of the Areopagus, we assessed the painful memories of the past, but especially, we asserted our common desire to do our best to advance on the path of Christian brotherhood and the recovery of unity. I hope that the meeting of Athens will be an important stage on the long road that lies ahead; the recent visit to Rome of a delegation of the Orthodox Church of Greece confirms me in this hope.
3. Your country is deeply attached to the Christian faith which is one of the constitutive elements of the nation. It knows this religious heritage is living at the heart of Europe, not just as a historical memory which is justifiably an important element of its culture, but also as a source that can bring dynamism and future prospects to the building of Europe. On various occasions I have expressed my concern in this regard and, especially, my regret at seeing that no explicit mention was made of the communities of religious believers among the partners who are to contribute to the reflection on the "Convention" established at the Laeken Summit with a view to a possible European Constitution. As I recalled to the Diplomatic Corps: "The marginalization of religions, which have contributed and continue to contribute to the culture and humanism of which Europe is legitimately proud, strikes me as both an injustice and an error of perspective. To recognize an indisputable historical fact in no way means to disregard the modern demand for States to have an appropriate non-confessional character, and therefore Europe as well!" (Address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, 10 January 2002, n. 2; ORE, 16 January 2002, p. 3).
I am sure, Mr Ambassador, that your country can play an important role within the institutions of the Community to ensure that they recognize and express in a satisfactory way the religious dimension to which the Holy See and the Hellenic Republic are equally attached.
The Holy See, as you know, calls forcefully for the establishment of a solid and lasting peace among nations, and supports all that can enable different peoples to meet, to speak to one another and to put into practice common projects for the good of all the inhabitants.
6. Mr Ambassador, at the time when you are beginning the noble mission of representing your country at the Holy See, please accept my best wishes for its success, and be sure that you will always find here with my collaborators the necessary understanding and support!
Upon your Excellency, upon your family, upon all those who work with you and upon all your compatriots, I cordially invoke an abundance of divine Blessings.
*L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly Edition in English n. 37 p.6.
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