From today’s Providence Journal:
The arrival of Pope Benedict XVI as leader of the world’s Roman Catholics could set the stage for closer collaboration between Orthodox Christians and the church of Rome.
Such is the cautious but optimistic view of the spiritual leader of the United States’ 1.5-million-member Greek Orthodox Church.
Archbishop Demetrios, 77, says it’s his “expectation and prayer” that the new pope, former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, will do “tremendous things.”
He notes that he visited with Ratzinger in 2003.
“In my visit with him, he really expressed his deep concern about the way things had developed, especially in Europe. I’m paraphrasing now, but what he said was: Forget the missionary work in Africa, it’s Europe that is in terrible need of evangelization because it is falling apart in terms of Christianity.”
Some people may associate such talk as being conservative, Demetrios says. He has his own idea as to what is conservative in church and what is not, and so doesn’t use labels.
“I think he might be able to do tremendous things. As a theologian, if he is convinced of something he will do it high speed. And if he is convinced something should not be done, he is not going to do it,” Demetrios says.
He says he expects to see some daring things from the new pope, the same way the ardent anti-communist, Richard Nixon, opened the doors to China, and the way Menachem Begin, a hawk and “superpatriot” prime minister of Israel, gave up the Sinai Peninsula and made peace with the Egyptians.
“If Benedict, so characterized as a conservative, decides to do something so daring, no one will question him because he has the credentials,” Demetrios says. “There is something that he (Ratzinger) said that is an indication of what I mean. He said, ‘For me, our real sister is the Orthodox Church.’ He didn’t say the Protestant Church. He said the Orthodox Church.”