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Pope bidding to repair old disagreement

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    2005.11.04 Palm Beach Post: Pope bidding to repair old disagreement By Steve Gushee Palm Beach Post Staff Writer Friday, November 04, 2005 The pope deserves
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      2005.11.04 Palm Beach Post:
      Pope bidding to repair old disagreement
      By Steve Gushee
      Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

      Friday, November 04, 2005

      The pope deserves credit for his optimism if not his realism. He
      wants to heal a nasty rift with the Russian Orthodox Church that one
      of his predecessors triggered nearly 1,000 years ago.

      To make matters more difficult, that great schism led to replacing
      Rome with Russia in the ancient hierarchy of leading Christian
      centers. The patriarch of Russia is not soon likely to yield that

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      Nevertheless, Pope Benedict XVI wants to begin the healing
      diplomatically by exchanging ambassadors between Russia and the

      Patching up the centuries-old conflict with the Russian Church might
      follow diplomatic relations with the state, according to a Vatican
      representative on a visit to Moscow last week. That will not be a
      simple task.

      Christianity came to Russia only in the 10th century following the
      missionary work of Sts. Cyril and Methodius that culminated with the
      baptism of Prince Vladimir in 988.

      The Russian Church was a "daughter" of the church in Constantinople,
      one of five great centers of the undivided faith known as
      Patriarchates. The other ancient cities so honored were Jerusalem,
      Antioch, Alexandria and, in the west, Rome.

      Different languages, liturgies and customs, barbarian invasions and
      sheer distance began to separate the church in Rome from the others
      in the eastern part of the Empire.

      The Bishop of Rome, locally known as the pope, began to assume
      authority over the other bishops. In 1054, Pope Leo IX made a
      unilateral theological claim about the Trinity that was the straw
      that broke the church's fragile unity. Henceforth, there would be a
      Catholic Church in the West and the Orthodox Churches of the East.

      Moscow was named a Patriarchy in 1589 to replace Rome in the top five
      Christian cities, sealing the division of the two branches of the
      ancient faith. Each has talked of unity since but worked for its own

      Benedict XVI wants to visit the church in Russia to warm the icy
      relationships. Russian Patriarch Alexy II is wary. He insists that
      the Catholic Church is stealing sheep from Orthodox churches and
      discriminates against Orthodox Christians in the West. The Vatican,
      of course, denies the accusations. The truth is, no doubt, somewhere
      between the two sides.

      An apology from the pope for the arrogance of his predecessor might
      get talks started, but Vatican apologies are rare.

      Still, the pope has made a bold attempt to heal a scandalous division
      for which his church is responsible.

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