From Bruce Johnston, Rome correspondent Tin. PoPis is take part for the first time in a important religious ceremony with the spiritual leader of the world's
Orthodox Church. In what it called an "important milestone in the re-unification" with the Eastern Church, Rome's 11 Messaggero said the Pontiff would be taking part in a ceremony in the Holy Land next month with the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartolornew I.
Terming the news "sensational". the report said that the Pope and Bartholomew would appear together before 80,00(1 young people on March 24, on the mount in Galilee where Christ proclaimed the Beatitudes.
The patriarch was Eastern Orthodoxy's "primate of honour" and the idea that he could meet John Paul II to enable the two to "embrace after a thousand years" was of immense importance and "worth the effort" needed to achieve it, 11 Messuggero said.
The paper added that the following day in the Pope's week-long Holy Land trip a pilgrimage to mark the Holy Year, which is strongly ecumenical in nature — a meeting on the Mount of Olives between the Pontiff and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Diodorus would also be of "great pan-Christian importance".
Despite notable efforts to ease the relations between the two churches, tension has worsened rather than eased after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Although Orthodox leaders have looked at the 79-yearold Pope with suspicion, accusing the Church in Rome of proselytism, the prevailing feeling in Rome has been that the Orthodox Church, particularly in Russia, has been to blame for the continuing chill in relations.
Messaggero said that the news of the meeting of
Bartholomew I and John Paul II had come from Israel, despite "maximum reserve" within the Holy See.
Among the events of interreligious interest in the Pope's pilgrimage will be his scheduled visit on March 26 to Jerusalem's Western Wall, and to the El Aqsa mosque.
But an appointment on March 23 when he will pay homage to the Holocaust will doubtless have the most significant effect on Israeli opinion.
The visit will be the second papal pilgrimage to the Holy Land in history — the first was made by Pope Paul VI. It will be Pope John Paul 11's second time in Israel, followi n a visit in the 1960s.