The first weekend of 1964 contributed a pair of significant paragraphs to the annals of church history. It marked the first time in more than five centuries that a Roman Catholic pope and an Eastern Orthodox ecumenical patriarch have met face to face. It was also the first pilgrimage to the Holy Land ever made by a Roman pontiff.

Who is the bearded Patriarch from Istanbul whose meeting with Pope Paul VI created such a sensation?

Much is known about the Hamlet-like Roman Catholic pontiff, his childhood in a well-to-do Italian family, his rise to prestige in the Curia, and the “banishment” to Milan which for the liberally-minded prelate curiously proved to be the final stepping stone to the papacy. But what about His All-Holiness Athenagoras I, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, to give his full official title?

The 77-year-old Patriarch, who spent 17 years in the United States, has shown a consistent interest in efforts to secure a rapprochement between Eastern Orthodox and the Vatican. His approach has been careful and considered, however, and sometimes very slow. He knows that he represents the estimated 200,000,000 Orthodox believers around the world only in a limited way, certainly not in the much broader sense that a pope represents Roman Catholics. The ecumenical patriarch is often referred to as “the first among equals,” the equals being the other Orthodox patriarchs.

The first outstanding sign of the Patriarch’s interest in rapprochement with the Vatican was in 1952, when he made a personal call on the late Archbishop Andrew Cassulo, then apostolic delegate in Turkey. Such a visit was unprecedented in the history of the patriarchate. The same year, he was represented by a three-man delegation in Istanbul marking the 13th anniversary of the coronation of Pope Pius XII.

Patriarch Athenagoras was born in 1886 at Epirus, then under Turkish rule, but since 1913 a part of northwestern Greece. His lay name was Aristocles Spirou. His father was a well-known physician.

The man who was to become ecumenical patriarch studied at the Theological School in Istanbul, and while still a student was appointed secretary to an archbishop. His duties took him to various parts of the Balkans where he came into contact with French, English, and American nationals during World War I. Later he was transferred to Greece, where he was secretary to the Archbishop of Athens for four years. On becoming a priest, he abandoned his original name of Aristocles and took Athenagoras, which means, literally, “a man speaking in Athens.”

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After a seven-year stay in the Greek capital, Athenagoras was made Metropolitan of the Greek island of Corfu, and in 1931 was appointed to a post in New York. In the course of a busy life devoted to expanding the strength and resources of the archdiocese, he made many friends among Americans of all walks of life, two of them being former President Truman and Archbishop (now Cardinal) Richard Cushing of Boston.

His office in New York was the one now occupied by Archbishop Iakovos, that of the head of the Greek Archdiocese of North and South America. He served in the post for 17 years until he was made the 268th to occupy the ecumenical throne.

Archbishop Iakovos, interestingly enough, accompanied the patriarch to the Holy Land for his meeting with the Pope. It was in March, 1959, that Archbishop Iakovos had an audience with Pope John XXIII. To that audience he brought a letter from the Ecumenical Patriarch which, in effect, was the first effort toward establishing a Roman Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.

In his present role, Patriarch Athenagoras has given practical evidences of his interest in the ecumenical movement. Anxious to establish contacts with ecclesiastical leaders, he made a series of visits in 1960 to the Holy Land, and to the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the Ecumenical Patriarchate had become affiliated with the World Council of Churches. In September, 1961, Patriarch Athenagoras convened the Pan-Orthodox Conference at Rhodes, Greece, which was attended not only by prelates from all the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Churches, but by Protestant and Catholic observers. At the conference, plans were formulated that may eventually lead to a full-scale Pan-Orthodox Council.

Last June, Patriarch Athenagoras attended celebrations marking the 1,000th anniversary of the founding of the famous monastic colony on Mt. Athos in northern Greece. From there he went on a tour throughout Greece, during which he had a meeting with the local Catholic bishop.

In his modest patriarchal offices in the Fener section of Istanbul, Athenagoras I daily receives a constant stream of visitors, many of them from the United States.

In supporting a quest for Christian unity, Patriarch Athenagoras has insisted that he is not speaking of theological unity but rather of a unity that would have two aims:

“In its negative sense,” he explained, “it would disarm hatred, distrust, and bad propaganda between church groups. In the positive sense, unity would promote contacts on the common principles of Christianity and how they should be propagated.”

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January 4

At 5:14 a. m. the lights went on in the papal chambers overlooking St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City. As dawn broke, Pope Paul VI emerged from the Consistorial Hall where he had bid farewell to cardinals and he climbed into a limousine for the 16-mile ride to Fiumicino Airport. Crowds cheered him along the way, and a group of dignitaries including Italian President Antonio Segni were on hand at the airport to give him a sendoff. It was almost nine o’clock before his specially-outfitted Alitalia jetliner could get off the ground.

The flight to Amman, Jordan, took three hours and twenty minutes. He was greeted there by King Hussein, the monarch of Jordan who is a Muslim, and a crowd estimated as high as 20,000. A 21-gun salute boomed across the field and a group of girls sent 15 white pigeons aloft. As the 66-year-old Pontiff started out in a motorcade to Jerusalem, Hussein, an aviation expert, got into a helicopter and flew cover. Earlier, the king had gone to the control tower and personally talked down the Pope’s pilot through a low ceiling and gusty winds.

The motorcade stopped at the Jordan River and the Pope walked to the bank near the point traditionally held as the place of Christ’s baptism. While there, the Pope dipped his hand in the muddy water.

A papal address had been scheduled at the Damascus Gate entrance into Old Jerusalem, the part of the Holy City in possession of Jordan. But crowds were so thick by this time that the Pope was unable to deliver his speech. He got out of his car, nevertheless, and made his way on foot along a traditional route of Christ’s journey to the Cross. He was jostled repeatedly on the Via Dolorosa (Street of Sorrow) and had to pass up some of the Stations of the Cross without prayer. A number of papal aides expressed concern for his safety.

(The following evening a papal aide reportedly disclosed that a 14-year-old girl had been killed in the melee.)

Another potential hazard awaited the Pope at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as he was saying mass. A fire broke out in two cables suspended on a scaffold. All the electric lights in the sanctuary went out, and the only illumination was from altar candles. A man climbed the scaffolding and a soldier handed up his red and white Bedouin head dress to smother the blaze. Then the cables were parted with a stick and the fire was extinguished. The mass was not disrupted.

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The Pope ended the day with a prayerful evening visit to the Garden of Gethsemane, which was flood-lit for the occasion. The day’s events had reinforced Rome’s deepest traditions (e. g., Catholic visitors are offered 100 days off Purgatory if they say the “Our Father” in the garden). But perhaps the most offensive incident for Protestants was the waving and strewing of palm branches by the crowd—presumably a gesture reminiscent of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. The Pope had come “to encounter the Lord,” but he also assumed the role of Christ’s vice-regent. A radio commentator in Israel got carried away in alarming proportions, saying that the Pope “today occupies the place that Jesus occupied when he was on earth.”

January 5

Pope Paul traveled north from Jerusalem and crossed the border into Israel, where he was greeted by President Zalman Shazar. The two exchanged kind words, but Paul avoided specific mention of the state of Israel, which is not recognized by the Vatican.

The Pontiff then traveled to Nazareth and celebrated another mass. He ended an address with a series of expressions, “Blessed are we, if …” Although he mentioned service to the poor, he failed to respond to a request from a Franciscan priest that he mingle among the poor of the area. The priest, Pere Gauthier, is in charge of a mission to the poor and is outspoken in his view that Roman Catholic funds used to erect the Church of the Annunciation should have been diverted to hungry communicants.

The Pope then drove to the Sea of Galilee and again wet his hands along the shore. Subsequent stops were at Mount Tabor, Mount Zion, Cana of Galilee, and Capernaum. NBC correspondent Irving R. Levine noted a new interest in the Scriptures as a result of the Pope’s visit. “Obviously the best handbook for this tour is the Bible,” he said.

A Message From The President

U. S. Peace Corps Director R. Sargent Shriver met Pope Paul VI at Nazareth and delivered a letter from President Johnson. It was one of a series of stops by the late President Kennedy’s brother-in-law in which he is delivering messages to heads of state.

The letter to the Pope included a handwritten postscript in which Johnson expressed a desire to meet with the Pontiff. Johnson also was reported to have asked prayer for his own work and that of the United States government in behalf of peace.

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Shriver said at a news conference that the Pope responded warmly to the suggestion of a meeting. If there was any talk about possible time and place, this was not immediately disclosed.

En route back to Jerusalem, Paul detoured to Hadera along the Mediterranean Sea. He returned to the Jordanian sector of the Holy City via the famous Mandelbaum Gate. In his last few minutes on Israeli soil he delivered a brief speech defending the late Pope Pius XII against “unjust accusations” that he did not do all in his power to prevent the massacre of Jews by the Nazis during World War II. It was an obvious reference to the controversial play by the German Rolf Hochhuth.

Meanwhile, Patriarch Athenagoras had arrived in Jerusalem, Jordan for the historic meeting there with the Pope. The dramatic confrontation took place in a simply-furnished ground floor room in the residence of the Roman Apostolic Delegation, where the Pope was spending the night. The two met in a sentimental embrace which the Pope called a symbolic “kiss of peace.” It was the first face-to-face encounter of a Roman pope and an Orthodox ecumenical patriarch since 1439, when Pope Eugene IV and Patriarch Joseph II met at the Council of Florence. The initial meeting between Pope Paul and Patriarch Athenagoras lasted 29 minutes.

January 6

The Pope rose before dawn on his last day in the Holy Land. Last major stop on his pilgrimage was at Bethlehem, where he once again asked for peace and unity among Christians. Jordan Radio said he sent pleas for peace to 224 world leaders.

During the morning he held a second meeting with Patriarch Athenagoras, this time at the villa of the Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem. Like the initial encounter, it last about half an hour.

Then it was back to the airport at Amman for the jet flight to Rome. In a departing admonition, the Pope quoted the Apostle Paul from Acts 20:32, the King James Version of which is:

“I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.”


First sign that the papal-patriarchal confrontation would set off a new chain of ecumenical activity came from Metropolitan Athenagoras of Thyateira. Late in December, as representative of Patriarch Athenagoras, the metropolitan had an audience with Pope Paul VI in which he delivered a formal address calling for a “pan-Christian conference.” Its purpose, he said, would be “to discuss in love and conviction how to combat sin, how to protect the Church and the peace and freedom of the world threatened by a common enemy, atheism and tyranny.” …

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During a stop at the Rhodes airport en route to Jerusalem, Patriarch Athenagoras said, “The idea of a meeting originally came from the Pope.” This word surprised many observers, for the Patriarch was the first to make public any specific proposal for a meeting. In view of the Patriarch’s revelation, it seems legitimate to assume that the Pope already had the meeting in mind when he announced plans for his pilgrimage to the Holy Land at the close of the second session of the Vatican Council. Immediately thereafter Patriarch Athenagoras issued his appeal for a Christian summit.…

The Patriarch also made these comments while in Greece en route to Jerusalem: “The ice is broken. Soon a new era will begin in the history of Christendom. New shapes and forms will emanate, as well as new methods of Christian church contributions to world peace.” “I am engaged in a great endeavor which should not be judged from only one result.” …

Liberty magazine of the Seventh-day Adventists recently attributed to Patriarch Athenagoras the following statement: “Humanity has had two periods of youthful vigor. One at creation, one at the advent of Christ. Soon will begin the third for both humanity and Christendom through the union of Christians.” …

Vatican sources said the Pope would call a consistory to tell cardinals about his pilgrimage and to impart to them his “divine inspiration” from praying at sacred shrines.

Orthodox Jews asked the Ministry of Education in Israel how to explain all the tumult to children, who ordinarily hear virtually nothing about Christianity.… A crash program of improvement at sacred sites took place in the weeks prior to the Pope’s arrival.…

The Protestant Reformation flatly denied the importance of pilgrimages and sacred sites and discouraged visits to holy places, for which Rome claimed thaumaturgical powers on the ground that the incarnate God sanctified certain places, to which something of divinity became attached, so that a partial absolution of sins was assured by the Roman Church to pilgrims to sacred sites. Protestants held that the glory of God is equally present in all places. In recent years, due to archaeological and historical interest, and a tourist interest made possible by modern transportation, Protestant attitudes have changed somewhat. But strictly speaking they do not make pilgrimages and while they show historical reverence at the sites they do not regard them as sacred in the Roman Catholic sense.…

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The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem was reportedly disturbed because Patriarch Athenagoras had not consulted him about a meeting with the Pope in the Holy Land.… The proposal is believed to have been made because Patriarch Athenagoras sensed an opportunity for meeting the Pope on “neutral” ground. It is highly improbable that the Pope would ever have traveled to Istanbul or the Patriarch to Rome for such a meeting.… The understanding in Orthodox ranks that the ecumenical patriarch consults with other patriarchs on major decisions is believed responsible for the fact that the prelate from Istanbul has not had a representative at the Vatican Council. Consent for such representation apparently was lacking from some Orthodox bodies.…

Some observers voiced the hope that the Pope’s pilgrimage might bring a measure of reconciliation among Arabs and Jews in the Holy Land.…

The Pope crossed the border from Jordan to Israel near Megiddo, one of King Solomon’s fortified cities and site of many ancient battles.… Megiddo is in the valley of Armageddon, where the Book of Revelation locates the last great battle of the world.…

Chief object of the Council of Florence (1438–45) was reunion with the Greek Church. Commissions consisting of Latins and Greeks in equal numbers centered negotiations on the Double Procession of the Holy Ghost, the use of unleavened bread in Communion, the doctrine of purgatory, and the primacy of the pope. Latin views ultimately prevailed, and the Greeks even accepted papal supremacy, though in vaguer terms than originally proposed. A complicating factor was that the Greeks sought support from the West against the Turks, who were advancing on Constantinople. A decree of union was signed on July 5, 1439, but Orthodox synods refused to ratify it.…

As press correspondents poured into the Holy Land from all over the world, the available accommodations became more austere. But there were no reports of anyone sleeping in a stable.

Cautious Comments

Protestant leaders queried by Christianity Today on events in the Holy Land were generally cautious.

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Dr. Oswald C. J. Hoffman, regular speaker on the International Lutheran Hour, declared: “Unfortunately the deep doctrinal divisions of Christianity will not be solved or overcome by the resolution of personal differences or by demonstrations of personal friendship between leaders of the church. We pray that the time will come when genuine differences in doctrine can be discussed by Christians fully and frankly with each other in an atmosphere of genuine Christian love and warmth.”

Dr. Paul S. Rees, vice-president of World Vision, said: “Unquestionably, we are witnessing the opening of new windows of outlook on the part of the Roman and the Eastern branches of Christianity. Those of us who are in neither tradition may well entertain serious doubts as to how fruitful these conversations may be, but the fact that leaders of these groups, notably Roman Catholic leaders, are taking a fresh look at Holy Scripture should prevent our being completely negative or pessimistic.”

Dr. Robert A. Cook, president of the National Association of Evangelicals: “One is not surprised.… It fits into the pattern of ecumenical outreach within the power structure of the Roman Catholic Church.” Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, stated clerk of the United Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., who earlier made a we-would-come-if-invited statement, expressed no surprise that Protestants had not been invited, indicating that lengthy preparations would have to precede such a meeting. As to talks between Pope and the Patriarch, Blake commented simply, “I think that meetings of Christians are good.”

Dr. Clyde W. Taylor, secretary of public affairs of the NAB, said that “apart from enhancing the new public image of the Vatican” the main purpose of the conference was probably “the promoting of friendlier relations and the procuring of more cooperation between the Orthodox church and the Vatican.”

In London, Dr. Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury, had predicted that during the Pope’s visit to the Holy Land “Christians everywhere will pray for unity in truth.” In a Yuletide message, Ramsey said the Anglican church “desires the friendship” with the Catholic church that “lies in the brotherhood of one baptism.” “We believe that an important practical step will be to discuss together those matters concerning baptism and mixed marriages where there is injury and trouble.”

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For some evangelical leaders the remarkable phenomenon of a Muslim state and a Hebrew state, which both evade the claim of Jesus Christ, paying tumultuous homage to the Pope, called to mind John 5:43: “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.”

Violence In Cyprus

Two Greek Orthodox monks and a boy novice were killed and three other monks were wounded on New Year’s Day at the Galaktrofousa monastery south of Nicosia in an outburst of fighting between Greek and Turkish Cypriot factions.

A raid on the monastery by shotgunarmed Turkish Cypriots broke a tenuous calm that had followed a cease-fire and temporary end to violence in Cyprus.

Worldwide expressions of concern over the troubled Cyprus situation—an eruption of long distrust between Greek and Turkish communities stimulated by Turkish Cypriot fears that proposed constitutional amendments would jeopardize their rights—included issuance of a communique by the Council of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul.

Turkish radio said the council met under the chairmanship of Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, supreme leader of Eastern Orthodoxy. The communique lamented the “deplorable events which took place in Cyprus and which caused so much innocent bloodshed and death.”

The communique expressed “indignation … profound sorrow and hope that peace and tranquility will be restored as soon as possible.”

Serving both as spiritual and political leader of Cyprus is Greek Orthodox Archbishop Makarious III, ethnarch and president of the island republic.

The outbreak of violence followed the archbishop’s proposal to amend the constitution to remove what he considered obstacles to the functioning of the government.

The proposals were seen by the Turkish community, which numbers some 120,000 compared to about 425,000 Greek Cypriots, as a threat to their influence.

Archbishop Makarious became the first president of Cyprus when the island achieved independence in 1960. Before that, he led the struggle for sovereignty, bitterly opposing British rule.

Born Michael Christedoulos Mouskos, the son of a peasant in the Cypriot village of Ano Panayia, the 50-year-old archbishop became a novice monk at the age of thirteen and later studied law and theology at Athens University.

He studied theology for two years at Boston University under a World Council of Churches’ fellowship and then was elected Metropolitan of Kition in Cyprus. In 1950 he was elected archbishop and ethnarch of Cyprus.

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Scripture With A Schedule

Two days before his inauguration last month, President Chung-Hee Park of the Republic of Korea attended a special Sunday morning Christian service arranged by Christian members of his cabinet. The event stirred up a flurry of rumors that he might become a Christian.

At the time he assumed power two years ago after a coup d’etat, Park had stated, “My father and mother were Buddhist, but I am nothing.” There is little real evidence to indicate that he has changed his mind.

However, one of his close co-workers is the Minister of Defense, Sung-Eun Kim, a devout Presbyterian layman, who persuaded Park to ask for the special preinauguration service at an ROK army chapel. It was attended by high army, navy, and air force officers, government officials, and Christian leaders from virtually all denominations.

An ROK army chaplain preached forcefully to the President-elect on “The Invisible Foundation,” and an army officer, in the name of Korea’s more than one million Christians, presented him with a Bible, urging the newly elected president to read it “ten minutes every morning upon rising, and ten minutes every evening as you go to bed.”


Civil Marriages In Maryland

With the new year Maryland became the last of the fifty states to authorize civil marriages by circuit court clerks.

Legislation passed last year by the state legislature replaced a Colonial law which held that only clergymen could perform marriages.

Supporters of the measure, including Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Jewish leaders, felt it would end the hypocrisy involved when non-believers were forced to go through a wedding ceremony performed by a clergyman.

The new law allows divorced persons unable to remarry in a religious ceremony to be united by a designated civil servant for a $10 fee.


Four persons died last month in an attempted robbery of the rectory of a small Roman Catholic church in Ottawa.

Two youths—brothers—were surprised in the rectory by a housekeeper. Her screams brought men running from the adjoining church, where mass was being celebrated. The youths opened fire and soon the rectory was surrounded by police armed with rifles, riot guns, and tear gas.

Detectives entering the house found the bodies of another housekeeper, a woman who resided in the rectory, a man who had been attending the mass, and one of the gunmen. Police said the youth, twenty-one, shot himself in the head after being trapped in the rectory. His seventeen-year-old brother was captured and jailed.

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A seventeen-year-old girl from Frederick, Maryland, was fatally wounded when her uncle accidentally shot her with a muzzle-loaded musket as they rehearsed a church play. The play scheduled to be presented by the Baptist Bible Church concerned hardships endured by a pioneer family traveling west at Christmas. A state trooper said a paper cap apparently ignited an old powder charge that had been left in the weapon.

Olympic Opportunities

Missionary organizations in Japan hope to set a record of their own at this year’s Tokyo Olympics: plans now call for the distribution of over 20 million tracts and Bible portions. American evangelist Kenny Joseph of The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM), in a report prepared for the Japan Times, said the planners are “taking their cue from St. Paul, the converted Christ-hater turned missionary who often used athletic terms to make his point.”

The Olympic Christian Testimony Committee, which is coordinating activities, will seek to capitalize on an unprecedented upsurge in the use of English in Japan.

In a year-end news roundup, Joseph made these points:

—New “religions” or sects are making a big impact on postwar religious life. One militant sect, called Soka Gakkai, claims three million members and has placed fifteen men in the Japanese Diet. The report states that the sect aims “to become a third world force and ‘capture’ Japan in ten years.”

—Over 100 million gospel tracts have been distributed in Japan since World War II. The Japan Bible Society sold over 31 million Bibles, Bible portions, and tracts during this period and estimates that one out of five Japanese have read parts of the Bible. The Pocket Testament League has distributed 13 million Gospels of John since the war, and the Gideons have placed a million New Testaments in hotels, schools, and hospitals.

—Plans have been announced for a “new evangelical revision of the entire Bible patterned after the American Standard Version.”

—The Lutheran Hour enrolled the 400,000th member in its Japanese correspondence course, and the Lutherans hope this year to produce ten telecasts for Japan.

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