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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pope Makes Historic Trip to Romania

BUCHAREST, Romania -- Pope John Paul II and Romania's Orthodox patriarch stood shoulder-to-shoulder Friday in a remarkable show of unity on the first visit by a Roman pontiff to a mainly Orthodox Christian country in nearly 1,000 years.

Not since the Great Schism of 1054, when the Eastern church definitively split from Rome, has a Roman Catholic pontiff made such a trip.

The Vatican agreed to a major concession, limiting the pope's stay to Bucharest and keeping him away from heavily Catholic areas in Transylvania in the north to avoid stirring religious and ethnic passions.

The two church leaders were anxious to make the most of the three-day visit.

They embraced at the airport when the pope arrived and Patriarch Teoctist stood beside John Paul in the glass-enclosed popemobile on the drive into the city. It was believed the first time that the Vatican had invited a non-Catholic clergyman to do that.

At the Orthodox cathedral, the two men, both in white robes, prayed together and then sat on twin thrones.

John Paul, who has made reconciliation a principal goal of the Vatican's millennium celebrations, said he was encouraging efforts for greater cooperation "among all those who call themselves Christians.''

For the past 10 years, the pope has made a number of overtures for a trip to Russia and has had a standing invitation from the Russian government. But the Russian Orthodox Church has opposed such a visit, citing major unresolved conflicts, such as disputes between Greek Catholics and Orthodox Christian in Ukraine and what is perceived as Roman Catholic proselytizing in Russia.

Last month, the Moscow Patriarchate postponed consultations with the Catholic Church, which were to take place in Italy, citing NATO's bombings of Yugoslavia from the territory that country.