Sunday, March 13, 2011

COMMENTARY: Christian Unity Is Closer Than Ever

The word schism is derived from the Greek word "skhisma" which means a split or division.

A horrible split or division occurred in the Christian Church in 1054 in what has been called the Great Schism. It was initiated when three delegates of the Roman pope entered St. Sophia Church in Constantinople, and placed a papal document -- called a bull -- on the altar and then departed.

The bull proclaimed that the Patriarch of Constantinople and his religious followers were excommunicated. Consequently, the Christian Church became divided into the Eastern Orthodox Church with its head in Constantinople, and the Western Catholic Church with its leader in Rome.

Several major differences between the Eastern and Western Christian Churches -- philosophical, liturgical, cultural, and even political -- led to the Great Schism.

Today -- nearly 1,000 years after the Great Schism occurred -- Orthodox and Catholic church leaders are making significant progress, in an effort to reunite the two largest denominations in Christianity.

Several high-level meetings have been held in the past year between Russian Orthodox officials and the Vatican, with the ultimate goal being to establish Catholic-Orthodox unity.

For example, Cardinal Kurt Koch -- the head of the Vatican Council for Promoting Christian Unity -- was in Moscow this past weekend (March 12-13, 2011) in order to strengthen Catholic relations with the Russian Orthodox Church. Cardinal Koch met with Patriarch Kirill, head of the Orthodox Church in Moscow and All Russia, and they discussed Catholic-Orthodox unity.

Last month, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican -- an indication that a warm and harmonious relationship exists between the Russian government and the Holy See.

Pope Benedict and Patriarch Kirill are both strong advocates of Christian unity. Moreover, Pope Benedict has maintained close ties with the spiritual leader of the Orthodox, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, who is also an advocate of Christian unity.

Pope Benedict and Patriarch Kirill are conservative theologians who believe that Europe -- which has become extremely secular in recent years -- should return to its Christian roots. Indeed, there is much speculation that Pope Benedict and Patriarch Kirill will meet later this year with the goal of achieving Catholic-Orthodox unity.

Whether or not that goal will be achieved this year remains to be seen. Nonetheless, one positive note relating to Christian unity is certain; namely, that the Orthodox and Catholic Churches are now taking a harmonious and direct path leading to Christian unity -- a path that has made more progress toward Christian unity during the past year than was made in the entire ten centuries since the Great Schism occurred in 1054.

1 comment:

  1. We need Orthodox unity first...Then, we can work on Christian unity.