In the News: Catholics and Orthodox

As many of you know, there has been an official division between the Eastern and Western churches — later known as the “Orthodox” and “Roman Catholic” branches of Christianity — since the year 1054.  The separation actually began much earlier, but that’s the date people point to.

Pope and Patriarch KyrilThere have been glimmers of hope for reconciliation here and there (see this link and also this one, for just a few of the important events that have happened over time), but the two groups have never achieved full unity.  But just today, CNN posted a story about Pope Francis’s plan to meet the “Patriarch” (that is, the head) of the Russian branch of the Orthodox church.  The meeting is to take place next week in Cuba, during Patriarch Kyril’s planned visit to Cuba.  The story is a nice one for us, as it refers to multiple events in church history!

This kind of story warms my heart significantly.  I come from a branch of Christianity that has always said that we value church unity… but we haven’t done a good job of letting our actions match our words.  But I’m convinced that, in this century, we will find our similarities to be MUCH more important than our differences.  Let us remember Jesus’ prayer to the Father in John’s Gospel: “…that they may be one as we are one.”

So, a set of questions: What do you think?  Are you hopeful?  Pessimistic?

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  1. Sadly this meeting in an airport has more to do with internal politics among Orthodox than unity between East and West. It’s wonderful that they are meeting, but the circumstances of their meeting are quite dissimilar from the pope’s previous meetings with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

    Patriarch Kyril has been pressing an idea of the “Russian World” to reassert influence in Ukraine while backing Russia’s invasion. In many ways this idea replaces former Soviet ideology justifying interference in the affairs of other countries. Meanwhile, movement toward unification among Orthodox in Ukraine, in a Ukrainian canonical church is opposed by Moscow. Many would like to see the EP recognize a Ukrainian church autonomous from the Russian Orthodox Church. It’s complicated.

    Good can come from this meeting, but it’s not as significant as some of the press would suggest.

  2. I am indeed hopeful. That said, Kevin is a guy who knows this stuff way better than I do, and I’m sobered by the fuller picture. I’d heard of some of this tension before. I hope this isn’t akin to the Iranian leader’s recent Euro tour — “Everyone support me, it’s all ok!”

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