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Associated Press
Vatican City – Pope Benedict XVI mourned the death of Greece’s Orthodox leader, Archbishop Christodoulos, and praised him Tuesday for having “opened a new era” in relations with the Vatican that helped forge greater Christian unity.
In a telegram of condolences, Benedict recalled that Christodoulos had hosted Pope John Paul II on a landmark visit in 2001 – the first time a pope had visited Greece in nearly 1,300 years. Christodoulos followed up with a visit to the Vatican in 2006.
The visits, Benedict wrote, “opened a new era of cordial cooperation between us, leading to increased contacts and improved friendship in the search for closer communion in the context of the growing unity of Europe.”
He said he hoped the archbishop’s successor would continue to build on Christodoulos’ “pastoral achievements.”
Christodoulos died Monday at the age of 69 after a monthslong battle with cancer.
Benedict has said that healing the 1,000-year-old rift with the Orthodox Church is a priority of his papacy.
He was sending a top Vatican official, Cardinal Paul Poupard of the office for inter-religious dialogue, as well as the No. 2 in the Vatican’s office for Christian unity to Christodoulos’ funeral Thursday, Vatican officials said.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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