Greek church leaders hope to mark the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 by reviving the ancient tradition of the "Olympic Truce," under which armed conflicts were suspended during the sporting contests.

Some organizations want the truce to last for the whole of 2004 rather than just the duration of the games, which will be held in August.

An Orthodox church official in Greece said plans for the year would be outlined in September, while a Roman Catholic spokeswoman predicted the initiative could have particular significance for the whole Balkans region.

In a joint declaration on May 4 in Athens, Pope John Paul II and the head of the (Orthodox) Church of Greece, Archbishop Christodoulos, said that "wars, massacres, torture and martyrdom" had become a "terrible daily reality for millions."

The two church leaders promised to "struggle for the prevalence of peace throughout the whole world," as well as for "solidarity towards all who are in need."

"We are pleased to add our voice to the many voices around the world which have expressed the hope that, on the occasion of the Olympic Games to be held in Greece in 2004, the ancient Greek tradition of the Olympic Truce will be revived, according to which all wars had to stop, and terrorism and violence had to cease," the church leaders said.

A spokesman for Greece's Orthodox synod, Charis Konidaris, said his church and the Greek government had set up a joint commission, headed by Agios Vlasios and Metropolitan Ierotheos of Nafpaktos, to plan this and other initiatives for the 2004 Olympic year. However, he stressed that "concrete plans" for the Olympic Truce proposal would be published only after further work, including discussions with Roman Catholic leaders.

Maria Kutatsi, spokeswoman for ...

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