December 1, 2006


Rome and Constantinople (New York Sun, December 1, 2006)

All eyes were on President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki yesterday, but if one takes the longer view, the more important meeting of the day — and even of the year — in the Middle East may well turn out to be the one between Pope Benedict XVI and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. They issued a joint statement that spoke of preparing for "the great day of the re-establishment of full unity" between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. Such a "re-establishment of full unity" would heal the Great Schism between the churches of Rome and Constantinople that dates to 1054.

The joint statement yesterday from the pontiff and the patriarch spoke of "the increase of secularization, relativism, even nihilism, especially in the Western world." It spoke of the need to preserve religious freedom in Europe. Benedict, in his own comments, went even further, reportedly saying, "The divisions which exist among Christians are a scandal to the world." Days before traveling to Turkey, Benedict XVI had welcomed to the Vatican the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the leader of the Church of England, which made its own break with Rome in 1534.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 1, 2006 10:02 AM

The thousand year schism is close to ending.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at December 1, 2006 11:05 AM

Even the Chief Druid can see the writing on the wall......

Posted by: Sandy P at December 1, 2006 12:22 PM

Unfortunately, the Great Schism will never be healed. It began mostly because of political differences that we've all forgotten about in our historical ignorance, but the divergence of 1000 years is just too much. Even IF the Pope & Patriarch were to make up, a) why would it be any more successful in taking hold than the desperate attempts of the final Emperors of Constantinople?, b) the other Orthodox churches (there ain't just one) would be under no obligation to follow suit, and c) there's not going to be a Patriarch of Constantinople in another few decades anyway, due to oppressive Turkish laws.

Posted by: b at December 1, 2006 12:42 PM

The major reason that the Great Schism will end is that the reasons that kept Western and Eastern Europe apart have eroded. When the Balkans were occupied by the Ottomans, and the Orthodox Christians looked to Moscow to intervene on their protection, there was a real civilizational split. Now most of those countries are in the EU and NATO or look towards joining those institutions. The culture no longer divides as it once did. At the same time, as secular culture erodes the national characters of many churches, I believe many Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians will see more ties between each other. The Russian Orthodox may still protest in a last gasp of Tsarist Eurasianism, but it will be an anomaly.

The attempts of the Byzantine Emperors failed because they surrendered completely to a hardline Roman stance at a time when the bulk of Orthodox Christians still cared about those obscure differences. Rome is much more willing to accomodate the Orthodox now on a matter which was mainly semantics in the first place. I think the ordinary Orthdox Christians will not fear communion with Rome. There will be hiccups, but the process of reconciliation should continue.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at December 1, 2006 3:57 PM

The Russkies have Islam problems, they need to get w/the program.

Posted by: Sandy P at December 1, 2006 4:04 PM

I'll go with Chris on this one. As all states which are not the World Government fade into insignificance, the poison of caesaropapism fades with them and both the motive for and the means of disunity fade with them.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 1, 2006 8:01 PM