Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, pictured in 2010. / Vatican Media.
Fribourg, Switzerland, Nov 8, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).
Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has paid tribute to an Orthodox leader on the 10th anniversary of his death.
In a letter dated Oct. 11, the retired German pope said it seemed “inconceivable” that a decade had passed since the death of Metropolitan Damaskinos Papandreou, the first Greek Orthodox metropolitan of Switzerland, in 2011.
CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that Benedict XVI made the comment in a message to a conference held in the metropolitan’s honor on Nov. 5 at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.
Metropolitan Damaskinos, a bishop of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, was born in Thermo, Greece, on Feb. 23, 1936. He was elected as the first metropolitan of Switzerland in 1982.
The author of numerous works on ecumenism, he served as the metropolitan bishop of Adrianople from 2003 until his death on Nov. 5, 2011, at the age of 75.
“That 10 years have already passed since the death of Metropolitan Damaskinos Papandreou of Switzerland is quite inconceivable to me,” the pope emeritus wrote in his message, addressed to Metropolitan Maximos of Switzerland and Professor Stefanos Athanasiou.
The letter was read out in a video message to the conference by Cardinal Kurt Koch, the Swiss president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Benedict, who served as pope from 2005 to 2013, said it was “a very special gift of Providence” that shortly after he was appointed a professor at the University of Bonn, Germany, in 1959, two Orthodox archimandrites began studying at the university’s Catholic and Protestant theological faculties.
“This was something new and unexpected, because until then Orthodox students never studied at Catholic faculties, but exclusively at the Protestant and the so-called Christian Catholic (= Old Catholic) faculty in Bern [Switzerland],” he explained.
“Both archimandrites became friends of mine. Unfortunately, my friend Stylianos Harkianakis, who later became Metropolitan of Australia, subsequently took a rigorous position that cooled our friendship,” the 94-year-old wrote.
“The friendship with Metropolitan Damaskinos Papandreou grew all the more for me, and thus the sadness over his all-too-early death.”
“But the fruit of a lively inner relationship with Orthodoxy has remained and continues to grow in the friendship that unites me more and more with the Ecumenical Patriarch.”