Pope Aims to Warm Ties with Orthodox

"The central part of Pope Francis’ three-day visit to Turkey is to continue his predecessors’ efforts to end the theological dispute 15 centuries ago that split the Christian world into the Roman and Orthodox churches.

Istanbul is the seat of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate, but over the centuries it has been home to both Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian congregations.

At Istanbul’s Aya Strati church, the ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I is concluding a service in the graveyard of the church - a ceremony to honor a buried saint.

Among those attending are many Greeks who have made a pilgrimage to Istanbul - or Constantinople, as they still call it. There is added excitement among the faithful over Pope Francis’s meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew, which could be a step toward reunifying the Roman and Orthodox churches in the future.

Father Vissarion, the deacon of the Patriarchal Church of Saint George, where the pope and the patriarch will celebrate Saint Andrew’s Day on Sunday, says “it’s better to feel that the two churches are coming closer together, instead [of being] separate continuously. That what we believe, I believe personally.”

Father Vissarion blames human failings for the ongoing schism but says there is now added urgency to the unification efforts.

“This comes from egoism, I think,” he said. “But it’s very painful, especially in this world in the 21st century when you see Christians persecuted in Middle East and elsewhere. The unity of the church is something that we try to find. We have to pray for that.”

Similar feelings can be found at the Catholic church of Saint George, the 14th-century home of Istanbul’s small Austrian Catholic community.

Father Franz Kangler welcomes reunification efforts, but says many theological questions need to be resolved, including who would lead a unified church."


“But with more than a thousand years of division, the process of unification will take time.” If it ever occurs, it won’t happen in our lifetime. Also, it will take more than the approval of the Ecumenical Patriarch as the Council of Florence proved. The entire Orthodox people, laity and hierarchy would have to consent. Ecumenical dialogue should focus on letting the Orthodox be the Orthodox rather than gradually easing them into Catholicism.

Jon, with all due respect I don’t understand this comment. How can we know when or when not the Holy Spirit will act? I hope you are wrong and soon we are saying “wow, how powerful the Holy Spirit”.

Peace and Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Ecumenical dialogue should never focus on letting people stay outside the Church or in schism with it. Christ wills all His followers to be fully united, ecumenism should always be seen as a path to that goal. Does that mean beating the Orthodox over the head with the Petrine Primacy? No. Does it mean aggressively condemning them? No. But only false ecumenism seeks to affirm people in an objectively evil state (even if such a state isn’t immediately sinful for current Orthodox members).

But from the Orthodox perspective, it is the Catholic Church that is in schism. Who did what and when that lead to the schism is not black and white. It is not easy to point the finger at one or the other tradition and cry, “they did it!” Reading all the the Catholic/Orthodox threads here should give one pause before taking a stand on one side or the other. Given all the threads that have been made regarding Orthodox-Catholic relations, it is evident that the history leading up to the schism is convoluted and confusing. I don’t it is something even the Pope fully understands which is why there is dialogue in the first place.

Happy Thanksgiving, Jon Mallory

If it was clear and obvious who was in the wrong during the Schism and leading up to it, then the Schism wouldn’t have lasted a thousand years.

I agree there are egos to tame.

Both sides have a population that continues to point fingers and argue their case.

People who want to be right need to take a look at themselves.

I don’t think I would say it should “focus on letting the Orthodox be the Orthodox” (Edit: maybe I’m just splitting hairs there) but I basically agree with you: we don’t seek to have Orthodox come into the Roman Communion … notwithstanding the fact that the door is open if any Orthodox decides of their own accord to come over.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.