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Relics returned

VATICAN CITY (CNS): After hundreds of years, Orthodox faithful again will be able to pray before the earthly remains of two of their greatest saints, theologians and patriarchs – Sts Gregory Nazianzen and John Chrysostom.

Pope John Paul II consigned part of the relics of the two 4th century doctors of the Church to Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople on November 27 during a prayer service in St Peter’s Basilica.

The relics of St Gregory were transferred to St Peter’s Basilica in 1580, making his relics the first after St Peter’s to be venerated in the new basilica. St John’s relics were placed in the basilica’s Chapel of the Choir in 1626.

The portion of the relics retained by the Vatican will continue to be venerated in the basilica, Vatican officials said.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said last week’s ceremony was not an act of “reparation and a way for the Pope to ‘ask forgiveness’ on the part of the Catholic Church for the removal of the relics from the ecumenical patriarchate during the Crusade of the 13th century”.

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