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Archons: +Bartholomew's presence at Pope's Instalation significant

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  • Nina Tkachuk Dimas
     http://www.archons.org/news/detail.asp?id=619 Archon News The Extraordinary Historical Significance of His All-Holiness’ Presence at Pope Francis’
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 20, 2013
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      Archon News
      The Extraordinary Historical Significance of His All-Holiness’ Presence at
      Pope Francis’ Installation as Bishop of Rome
      New York, NY

      Amid the crush of news reports in the past month
      that followed Pope Benedict’s unprecedented resignation from the papacy, one of
      the most intriguing was the decision by His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch
      Bartholomew, to attend Pope Francis’ installation as Bishop of Rome. The
      occasion is being presented in the media as something that has not happened
      since the ecclesiastical schism that separated Christian East and Christian West
      in the eleventh century. But that characterization is almost certainly
      wrong—this is quite likely the first time in history that a Bishop of
      Constantinople will attend the installation of a Bishop of Rome. And this is a
      profoundly bold step in ecumenical relations between the Orthodox and the Roman
      Catholics, one that could have lasting significance.

      Prior to the sixth century, the election of a Roman
      bishop was a local affair. In most cases, the new pope was chosen from among
      the city’s clergy and was typically either the eldest priest or the eldest
      deacon. There were a few exceptions, but this was the typical pattern. News of
      an election would circulate throughout the Christian world but that news flow
      would have been too slow to enable high-ranking Church officials from the East
      to travel to Rome for the event.

      During the sixth century, Byzantine armies conquered
      the Italian peninsula, returning the city of Rome to the imperial Roman
      government, now centered in Constantinople. In this context, which lasted from
      the mid-sixth century until the loss of Byzantine influence in Italy in the
      eighth century, the election of a new Roman bishop required the approval of the
      Byzantine emperor (the same, of course, was true of the election of a new
      Ecumenical Patriarch). Under such an arrangement, papal elections took longer
      but there still would be no reason for an Eastern Patriarch to travel to Rome
      for the installation.

      There are a few examples from this Byzantine period,
      such as the election of Pope Pelagius I in 556, where the man elected to be the
      Roman bishop was actually in Constantinople at the time of his election. While
      it is possible that the sacramental ceremony to install the new pope could have
      occurred in Constantinople—whereby the Patriarch of Constantinople would have
      been present—it is far more likely that the official ceremony would have
      occurred in Rome and, therefore, would have been conducted without the
      Patriarch’s presence.

      At the conclusion of Byzantine influence in papal
      elections in the eighth century, the election of Roman bishops returned, again,
      to local considerations. And, as geo-political factors continued to push Italy
      and the Eastern empire in separate directions, relations between individual
      popes and patriarchs became more sterile and distant—indeed, between the ninth
      and fifteenth century there are only one or two occasions where a Roman bishop
      and an Ecumenical Patriarch ever met in person.

      With all of this in mind, His All-Holiness’ decision
      to travel to Rome for Pope Francis’ installation as Roman bishop is an
      extraordinary event in the history of Christianity. And it is significant for
      reasons far beyond its novelty. First and foremost it is a powerful symbolic
      gesture for the cause of Christian unity. It demonstrates in unprecedented
      fashion the extent to which the Ecumenical Patriarch considers the relationship
      with the Roman Catholic Church to be a priority. For their part, members of the
      Vatican staff have responded to this grand gesture and have arranged for the
      reading of the Gospel at the installation to be sung in Greek (rather than
      Latin) in recognition of the fact that the Ecumenical Patriarch has taken this
      unprecedented step.

      The Christian world has been divided for so long
      that the establishment of an authentic reunion will require courage, leadership,
      and humility. It will also require a foundation in common faith and concerns.
      Given Pope Francis’ well-documented work for social justice and his insistence
      that globalization is detrimental to the poor, it would appear as though the
      Orthodox and the Roman Catholic traditions have a renewed opportunity to work
      collectively on issues of mutual concern. With our Lord’s assistance, that
      common cause can be transformed into more substantive theological work. But
      such work requires a first step and it would appear as though Ecumenical
      Patriarch Bartholomew is willing to take such a step.

      George E. Demacopoulos, PhD
      Archon Didaskalos
      tous Genous
      Historian for the Order of St. Andrew
      Orthodox Christian
      Studies Center, Fordham University

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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