VATICAN CITY, MAY 4, 2001 (VIS) - Following the courtesy visit to the residence of the Orthodox Archbishop of Athens, where both Church leaders met in private and then spoke in the presence of their collaborators and exchanged gifts, the Pope left for the apostolic nunciature shortly after 1:30 p.m. There he had lunch and held a meeting with the Catholic bishops of Greece. 
In that meeting, following a greeting by Archbishop Nikolaos Foscolos of Athens, president of the Episcopal Conference of the Catholic Bishops of Greece, John Paul II said: "To our brothers and
sisters of the Orthodox Church dwelling in this land we are united by a powerful bond of faith in our common Lord. How we wish that all hearts were open and all arms outspread to welcome our fraternal greeting of peace!" 
"You are 'frontier' bishops," the Pope continued. "Because of the particular conditions in which you are living, you greatly desire that the obstacles which stand in the way of full union, and which cause
such suffering for you and your faithful, will be quickly overcome. And so, as you assert your just rights, you urge the Catholic Church, at times impatiently, to take steps capable of revealing with ever greater clarity the common foundations which unite the ancient Churches of Christ." 
The Holy Father thanked the prelates for their "passionate concern, which is a sign of great generosity. I assure you that I share the same fervent desire that the unity of the Church may be seen, as quickly as possible, in all its fullness. I likewise agree with you that there must be a continuation of the efforts, forcefully stated and encouraged by the Second Vatican Council, by which the Catholic Church herself strives, in her own daily life, to be ever more concerned to lay the foundations for better understanding with her brothers and sisters of the other Churches. These other Churches, in the meantime, must not fail to do their part in the quest for communion." 
"What I wish to emphasize today is that the Pope is here, with you, in this very land, in order to demonstrate a solidarity which is also physical, a genuine and affectionate esteem, and an unfailing remembrance in his thoughts and prayers."
The Holy Father concluded by exhorting the Catholic bishops not to lose hope: "The Lord certainly holds unexpected consolations in store for those who trust in Him. Work together in harmony, with gentleness and charity, courageous in the truth. Know that the Pope remembers you and your work daily in his prayer."
 At 4:30 p.m. the Pope is scheduled to visit the Catholic Cathedral of St. Dionysius of Athens, situated in the historic center of the city near the residence of the Catholic archbishop. Inaugurated in 1865, it was raised to a Basilica in 1877 by Pope Pius IX and is dedicated to Dionysius the Areopagite, disciple of Paul and first bishop of Athens.