Pope asks pardon for sins that drove Catholic, Orthodox apart

ATHENS, Greece (CNS) -- Like St. John Paul II before him, Pope Francis apologized to members of the Orthodox Church of Greece for the ways Catholics over the centuries had offended them, and he told Catholic leaders that they must embrace their minority status with humility.

"Here, today, I feel the need to ask anew for the forgiveness of God and of our brothers and sisters for the mistakes committed by many Catholics," Pope Francis told Orthodox Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and all Greece.

Under heavy gray skies, Pope Francis made his way Dec. 4 from the Vatican nunciature to the archbishop's office in Athens' old city. He was driven to the nearby Catholic Cathedral Basilica of St. Dionysius the Areopagite only after his meeting with Archbishop Ieronymos, the spiritual leader of the majority of Greek Christians.

While Catholics and Orthodox have the same roots in the preaching of St. Paul and the teaching of the early church theologians and first ecumenical councils, "tragically, in later times we grew apart," the pope said.

"Worldly concerns poisoned us, weeds of suspicion increased our distance and we ceased to nurture communion," Pope Francis said. "Shamefully -- I acknowledge this for the Catholic Church -- actions and decisions that had little or nothing to do with Jesus and the Gospel -- but were instead marked by a thirst for advantage and power -- gravely weakened our communion."