by Timothy Elphick Vatican relations with the Orthodox in Greece came close to breaking down this week, as Orthodox church leaders called on the government in Athens to retaliate against Pope John Paul's "deceitful tactics" in Europe.
The synod of the Greek Orthodox Church said that the Pope had a hidden agenda which was aimed at pushing the frontiers of Catholic influence into traditionally Orthodox parts of eastern Europe.
A Christmas message delivered by Pope John Paul in Macedonian
angered many Greeks, fearful of growing nationalism in the southern Yugoslav Macedonian republic and the Macedonian region of Greece.
La Repubblica, the Romebased daily newspaper, quoted a spokesman for the Gieek government as saying that Athens did not intend to sever formal diplomatic tics with the Holy See.
The Vatican said the Orthodox synod's accusations were "without foundation" and "took no account" of the Pope's commitment to good inter-church relations in Europe.
But the synod said the "role of the Pope has not shown itself to be either sincere or fraternal" in dealings with Orthodox churches.
In the Vatican on Saturday Pope John Paul prayed for the eventual reunion of the Catholic and Orthodox churches. For the first millennium of the Christian era they had been united "in the communion of faith", he said.
• A two-day meeting between Vatican and Russian Orthodox officials is expected to take place in Geneva during March, it was announced this week. The talks will focus on tensions over Catholic ambitions in Russia.