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Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders bless icon as olivebranch

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  • Rev Fr John Brian
    From: JHForest photos at: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/11/30/BAGC2MMHUK1.D TL November 30, 2006 (SF
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2006
      From: JHForest <mailto:JHForest@...>

      photos at:

      November 30, 2006 (SF Chronicle)


      Churches work to bridge 1,000-year global divide

      Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders bless icon as olive branch

      by Matthai Chakko Kuruvila, Chronicle Religion Writer

      Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders in San Francisco came together
      Wednesday night to bless a religious icon, and, in the process, helped
      heal a 1,000-year-old global divide.

      Rooted in part in a centuries-old theological dispute, the brother
      churches have often operated in isolation from each other, a split that
      has played out from Istanbul to San Francisco.

      Before Wednesday, no archbishop of San Francisco is known to have
      participated in a service exclusively with a Greek Orthodox metropolitan,
      the equivalent of an archbishop. Both churches have been working for years
      to remedy their longtime tensions.

      The joint blessing and dedication of the icon -- a 2-foot by 3-foot
      colorful mosaic of glass, semi-precious jewels and gold depicting the
      Virgin Mary and Jesus -- came as Pope Benedict visits Turkey, where his
      primary goal is to meet and build ties in Istanbul with the Ecumenical
      Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of an estimated 270 million
      Eastern Orthodox Christians around the world. Greek Orthodox are part of
      that family.

      "We're the spiritual children of our mother churches," said the Rev.
      Michael Pappas, the pastor of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in San
      Francisco, where the event was held. Speaking before Wednesday's service,
      Pappas said the local leaders' actions were "a reflection of what is
      happening in Constantinople," referring to the ancient name of Istanbul.
      Pappas believes the San Francisco service was the only one of its kind
      anywhere in the United States that joined a Catholic archbishop with a
      Greek Orthodox metropolitan.

      "This is, after all, what Jesus instructed his disciples to do at the last
      supper," Archbishop George Niederauer said in an interview before the
      service. "That his followers be one, just as he and the father are one. We
      are trying to respond to that from our own perspective."

      It hasn't always been that simple.

      Eastern Orthodox Churches and Roman Catholics claim their lineage to
      Andrew and Peter, blood brothers who were also apostles of Jesus.
      The two churches were once one. But in 1054, there was a schism between
      Rome and Constantinople. A primary difference between the Eastern Orthodox
      Church involved how to refer to the relationship between the Christian
      trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

      "What drove a wedge in the 11th century was this theological division,"
      said the Rev. James Bretzke, professor and chair of the Theology and
      Religious Studies Department at the University of San Francisco. "But it
      was also a power struggle about who was going to be the big authority.
      Now, in the last millennium, we've grown apart. We have very little shared

      "It's the weight of that 1,000 years of being apart that is the biggest
      hurdle to union," Bretzke said.

      Beginning with the papacy of John XXIII in 1958, the Roman Catholic Church
      sought to build stronger ties with the Eastern Orthodox. That has
      continued for decades with various visits and gestures, such as Benedict's
      visit and the joint blessing of the icon in San Francisco.

      There are still hurdles. The churches do not share communion with each
      other, arguably the most sacred Christian ritual.

      Neither Niederauer nor Pappas could come up with a reason why the two
      churches hadn't put on a joint event before Wednesday. But everyone saw
      the service with Niederauer and Metropolitan Gerasimos as a step forward.
      "Symbolism is very important in any church, and I think it's especially
      important in the Orthodox church and the Catholic church," Bretzke said.
      "Someone else might say, 'big deal.' But in fact, in these circles, it is
      a big deal. They're being pro-active. They're trying to take steps.

      They're not waiting to sit back and wait for the Second Coming."

      E-mail Matthai Chakko Kuruvila at mkuruvila@....

      Copyright 2006 SF Chronicle

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