Vatican City (Fides Service) - Tomorrow Saturday 27 November at 11 am in St Peter’s basilica there will be an ecumenical Liturgy during which Pope John Paul II will make a gift of relics of St Gregory Nazianzen and St John Chrysostom, Doctors of the Church,to Bartholomew I Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. The service will be a Celebration of the Liturgy of the Word with an introduction, veneration of the relics, biblical and patristic readings including excerpts of works by the Saintly Doctors; Byzantine hymns, prayers of the faithful and the Lord’s Prayer; the rite of making the gift and an address of gratitude by the Ecumenical Patriarch.
The gift of the relics, the pontifical council for the promotion of Christian unity says in a statement, is an encouragement to continue on the path to unity. The mortal remains of the these two Patriarchs of Constantinople, who worked to preserve unity between East and West, venerated in their own lands, and welcomed with great honour by the Church of Rome which has preserved and venerated them for many centuries, now return eastwards thanks to an act of spiritual sharing, which nourishes and strengthens communion between the See of Rome and Constantinople. In Istanbul the relics will be placed temporarily in a chapel inside the Patriarchate and on St Andrew’s Day, 30 November they will be solemnly transferred to the Patriarchal Church of St George .
St Gregory of Nazianzen, archbishop of Constantinople, Doctor of the Church for Latins and «the Theologian» for Eastern Christians died around the year 390. He was buried in his native village near Nazianz (Cappadocia, today Turkey). Later his earthly remains were moved to Constantinople. According to tradition the venerated relics were carried to Rome by Byzantine nuns of the order of St Anastasia forced by iconoclast persecution in the 8th century to leave Constantinople. Preserved and venerated all through the Middle Ages at the church of Santa Maria in Campo Marzio, the relics of St Gregory were later moved to St Peter’s where they were placed in the altar of the Gregorian chapel on 11 June 1580 . St Gregory was the first Saint to be buried and officially venerated in the restored Basilica, not far from St Peter .
Saint John Chrysostom died in exile in 407. On 27 January 438 his earthly remains were placed in the Byzantine church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople, traditional burial place for archbishops and emperors. Later, probably at the time of the Latin Empire of Constantinople (1204 - 1258), the relics were moved to Rome and placed in the old Basilica of St Peter. Later in the 17th century, when the new St Peter’s was completed, Pope Urban VIII had them placed in the Choir Chapel of the Canons of St Peter. (S.L.) (Agenzia Fides 26/11/2004; Righe 34 - Parole 465)