Skip to comments.Hopes rise that pope, patriarch meeting renews Christian unity effort
Posted on 05/02/2014 3:06:44 PM PDT by NYer
ROME (CNS) -- The Orthodox bishop who is coordinating the upcoming pilgrimage to Jerusalem by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople said he hopes the patriarch's May 25 meeting with Pope Francis will give new impetus to efforts for Christian unity.
But he also said the two leaders are likely to discuss a range of common concerns, including the predicament of Christians in the Middle East, conservation of the natural environment, and defense of the traditional family.
"We hope that this will not just be a meeting like others, but we hope that this will give a new horizon for the relations between our two sister churches," Orthodox Metropolitan Emmanuel of France told Catholic News Service in Rome. "In a divided world, we need unity."
Patriarch Bartholomew, considered first among equals by Orthodox bishops, is a natural dialogue partner for Pope Francis because the two men share important personal qualities, Metropolitan Emmanuel said.
"Both leaders are very charismatic," he said. "Both are leaders that look and think beyond what we do and what we think. They have a vision."
At the same time, he added, "both have their feet down to earth. They feel the need. They are close to mankind."
Metropolitan Emmanuel, a former president of the Conference of European Churches, said he expected the two religious leaders would discuss the Orthodox-Catholic ecumenical dialogue, as well as matters of "general interest," including Christians in the Arab world.
The presence of Christians in the region has sharply diminished and grown increasingly precarious over the last decade, following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Arab Spring revolts against authoritarian regimes and the Syrian civil war.
"We are very concerned about what is going on in Syria, what is going on in North Africa, and we are very concerned about the presence and the protection of Christians in the Middle East in general," he said.
The patriarch and pope were also likely to discuss other "questions of common interest," including environmental problems and "questions of the family," Metropolitan Emmanuel said.
"We both have the same view regarding marriage as the marriage of a man and a woman," he explained, noting Patriarch Bartholomew's 2013 Christmas encyclical in which he stressed children's need for a mother and father. "And we know very well that the pope is very much concerned about the issues of the family and the foundations on which the Christian family is founded."
The meeting between the leaders will mark the 50th anniversary of the encounter in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople. The earlier meeting, which led both churches to lift the mutual excommunications that started the East-West schism in 1054, opened the modern period of ecumenical dialogue.
"We have gone a long way all these years," the metropolitan said, noting the annual exchange of delegations between the churches, and the large of number of Orthodox and Catholics studying in each other's religious schools.
The metropolitan acknowledged that substantial challenges to unity remain, particularly the churches' differing interpretations of the doctrine of papal primacy, but he spoke appreciatively of the overtures by Pope Paul's successors to their "brothers" in Constantinople.
St. John Paul's decision to return the relics of St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom to the ecumenical patriarchate in 2004 -- 800 years after crusaders brought them to Rome -- "was a gesture that was very well appreciated in our church," the metropolitan said.
Pope Benedict XVI "knew very well the theology of the Orthodox Church," and continued a collaboration that he had pursued in his years as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The metropolitan said Pope Francis' open admiration of the Orthodox conception of synodality as a model for church governance has been "very important" in fostering unity between East and West.
He said an opportunity for greater closeness will arise at the Catholic Church's upcoming synod of bishops on the family, which will consider, among other topics, the eligibility of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion.
Pope Francis, who has said the predicament of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics exemplifies a general need for mercy in the church today, has noted -- though he has not endorsed -- the Eastern Orthodox practice of allowing second or third marriages even when the first is sacramentally valid.
"I think this would be an idea that many in the Catholic Church would embrace," the metropolitan said. "I think that we have a lot to share and a lot to learn from each other."
Would've been nice 800 years ago when they could've done something to keep the Muslims from overrunning Anatolia and the whole Middle East.
Watch out. Politician “Christian unity” usually means an acceptance of something less that the “faith that was once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). We come to unity by grace through faith by the operation of the spirit and gifts (Eph 4:3,7-13), not by board meetings and such.
Unless Francis plans on telling the Orthodox that they must become Catholic, then this is not about true unity at all.
Two words: Mortalium Animos
The source of many divisions in the body of Christ is far back in the past. If people today meet each other as people of today, maybe they can get past what happened hundreds of years ago, and at least come to understand accurately where each confessional group stands, today.
As an American, and as a convert to Catholicism, I think it’s a blessing to have no “past” that really affects how I view people of other denominations or of other nationalities today.
It is time get past by what divides us as Christians and more on what unites us.
May I remind you kindly about what is much more important:
Well there is nothing wrong with having a much needed conversation on what unite us as Christian believers.
The beauty of converts is that they bring in a fresh perspective in regards to faith. Welcome Home!
No nothing wrong with conversation per se. Unity of the spirit in the bond of peace is a good thing. But I’m wary of political-type religious-unity efforts, like the ecumenical thing.
I agree, and not just what divides us as Christians, but everything that makes people not-one, contrary to what God wants.
One of my favorite scenes is the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. The old Union veterans (in their 70s and 80s) lined up behind the stone wall at Pickett’s Field, and the old Confederate veterans lined up to reenact their famous charge ... but before they reached the wall, the Union men climbed over, ran down the field, and hugged their old enemies.
Why not also hold a much needed conversation on what divides us? That’s what Christ and His apostles did.
Is it not right, it is often repeated, indeed, even consonant with duty, that all who invoke the name of Christ should abstain from mutual reproaches and at long last be united in mutual charity? Who would dare to say that he loved Christ, unless he worked with all his might to carry out the desires of Him, Who asked His Father that His disciples might be "one." And did not the same Christ will that His disciples should be marked out and distinguished from others by this characteristic, namely that they loved one another: "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another"? All Christians, they add, should be as "one": for then they would be much more powerful in driving out the pest of irreligion, which like a serpent daily creeps further and becomes more widely spread, and prepares to rob the Gospel of its strength. These things and others that class of men who are known as pan-Christians continually repeat and amplify; and these men, so far from being quite few and scattered, have increased to the dimensions of an entire class, and have grouped themselves into widely spread societies, most of which are directed by non-Catholics, although they are imbued with varying doctrines concerning the things of faith. This undertaking is so actively promoted as in many places to win for itself the adhesion of a number of citizens, and it even takes possession of the minds of very many Catholics and allures them with the hope of bringing about such a union as would be agreeable to the desires of Holy Mother Church, who has indeed nothing more at heart than to recall her erring sons and to lead them back to her bosom. But in reality beneath these enticing words and blandishments lies hid a most grave error, by which the foundations of the Catholic faith are completely destroyed.
Admonished, therefore, by the consciousness of Our Apostolic office that We should not permit the flock of the Lord to be cheated by dangerous fallacies, We invoke, Venerable Brethren, your zeal in avoiding this evil; for We are confident that by the writings and words of each one of you the people will more easily get to know and understand those principles and arguments which We are about to set forth, and from which Catholics will learn how they are to think and act when there is question of those undertakings which have for their end the union in one body, whatsoever be the manner, of all who call themselves Christians.
And here it seems opportune to expound and to refute a certain false opinion, on which this whole question, as well as that complex movement by which non-Catholics seek to bring about the union of the Christian churches depends. For authors who favor this view are accustomed, times almost without number, to bring forward these words of Christ: "That they all may be one.... And there shall be one fold and one shepherd," with this signification however: that Christ Jesus merely expressed a desire and prayer, which still lacks its fulfillment.
For those who have eyes......