DAMASCUS, May 5, 01 ( - Although Orthodox Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens had insisted that he would not pray with Pope John Paul II during the Pontiff's visit to Greece, in fact the two did pray together, a Vatican spokesman has revealed.

Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the head of the Vatican press office, told reporters that the joint prayer took place on Friday evening, when Archbishop Christodoulos visited the Pope at the residence of the apostolic nuncio in Athens. This was the third meeting between them. Pope John Paul had paid an earlier courtesy call on the Orthodox prelate at the Archbishop's residence. Then the two met for a joint reading of the Acts of the Apostles at the Areopagus later in the day.

Plans for the joint appearances of the Pope and the Archbishop had been delicately arranged, since the Greek Orthodox leader had refused to participate in any liturgical celebration or common prayer
with the Pontiff. The Greek Orthodox Church rejects the authority of the Pope, and in fact regards the Roman Catholic Church as heretical. Many Orthodox leaders had bitterly protested the papal visit to Greece, and objected to any public appearance by Archbishop Christodoulos at the Pope's side.

Nevertheless, the Pope apparently won over the Greek prelate. Navarro-Valls revealed that the Pontiff suggested that they pray together, and the Archbishop warmly agreed. As the papal spokesman explained:

"John Paul II, who was accompanied by bishops and cardinals from the Curia, suggested to his Beatitude Christodoulos-who was accompanied by seven Orthodox bishops-to recite an Our Father together, in Greek. The Orthodox primate immediately accepted the idea, and began to recite it."