Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Papism  and Ecumenism


Pope Visit to Mount Sinai and Its Orthodox Monastery:

Common prayer is refused.






The pope, who spoke at St. Catherine's, the monastery at the foothills of Mount Sinai that is one of the most revered in the Greek Orthodox Church, had once hoped to gather there Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders to symbolize reconciliation in the new millennium. Objections by the Greek Orthodox monks, among others, dashed that plan.

Poignantly, the pope alluded to his unfulfilled dream. Describing the wind from Mount Sinai as a sign from God, the pope said, ''It carries an insistent invitation to dialogue between the followers of the great monotheistic religions.''


Before the prayer service, the pope toured the sixth century monastery, asking questions about its icons and collection of illuminated manuscripts -- the world's second largest after the Vatican's. When Archbishop Damianos, abbot of the monastery, took him to the chapel, which tradition says was built on top of the roots of Moses' burning bush, the pope fell to his knees and prayed alone for 10 minutes.

When he reached the relics of St. Catherine, a fourth century Christian martyr, the pope, in an ancient ritual, took a ring, placed it on the bones of her finger and skull and then kissed the ring.

The visit was the emotional high point of John Paul's three-day trip -- the first papal visit to Egypt ever. The pope, who looked tired and weak during much of the journey, today delivered his speech in a clear, forceful voice. Greek Orthodox monks helped him down the steps to the podium, but his spokesman said he needed no assistance to kneel at the site of the burning bush.

The Greek Orthodox Church does not recognize the authority of the pope, and in his introductory remarks, Archbishop Damianos addressed the him as ''president of the Roman Catholic Church.'' He and other leaders are wary of ecumenical rapprochement. Archbishop Damianos embraced the pope as he arrived, but he did not pray with him. ''It is impossible, it is against our canon law,'' the archbishop explained later. He said that, for his faith, unity between Roman Catholics and Orthodox was ''possible, but it would take a miracle.''


The Vatican repeatedly described the pope's visit as a purely personal pilgrimage, but inevitably political tensions surfaced along the way.





Article published in English on: 1-7-2009.

Last update: 1-7-2009.