That We May Be One: Wounds of a Thousand Years Begin to Heal

Is a thousand years long enough to say you’re sorry?

Maybe, but for a long time, “sorry” wasn’t in the vocabulary of either side of what is known as the “Great Schism.” The Great Schism split the Church, East from West, around the year 1050. The Church has paid dearly for this split down through the past millennia, with the fall of Constantinople being part of the price.

From then to now, the thaw has been slow and touchy. Pope John Paul II paved the way by making the first moves toward reconciliation. Today, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I announced that he will attend the inauguration of Pope Francis.

Mark Shea made the poignant observation that Pope Francis, who only has one lung, is the pope under whom the Church will once again begin to breath with both lungs. None of this is to say that what we are looking at is a re-uniting of the two rites. But it is of incredible importance in a world in which Christians of every communion are increasingly subjected to hostility, outright discrimination and violent persecution that we come together in our mutual self defense.

The Patriarch of Constantinople surely understands this far better than I do.

We must begin to stand together.

I view this wonderful news as an indication that our leaders know this and are beginning to move toward doing it.

God bless both these men.

Deacon Greg Kendra has the story. Also, This article from gives details:

For the first time since the Great Schism, ecumenical patriarch to attend pope’s inaugural Mass
The metropolitans of Argentina and Italy will accompany Bartholomew. Moscow Patriarchate hopes in closer cooperation with Rome but excludes for now a meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I will attend Pope Francis’s inaugural Mass. The Ecumenical Patriarchate Press Office informed AsiaNews about the decision, noting that this is the first time such an event occurs since the Catholic-Orthodox split in 1054, an important sign for Christian unity.

The ecumenical patriarch will be accompanied by Ioannis Zizioulas, metropolitan of Pergamon and co-president of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church, as well as Tarassios, Orthodox Metropolitan of Argentina, and Gennadios, Orthodox Metropolitan of Italy.

Relations between Catholics and Orthodox have been improving since the Second Vatican Council through mutual visits, acts of friendship and theological dialogue.

Under Benedict XVI, the dialogue picked up in earnest after a lull. In trying to promote it, the pope suggested ways to express the primacy of Peter’s successor that could be acceptable to the Orthodox, finding his inspiration from the undivided Church of the first millennium. (Read the rest at:,-ecumenical-patriarch-to-attend-pope’s-inaugural-Mass-27408.html)

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  • neenergyobserver

    Good news, indeed, for all of us. I noted in passing that Francis, while Archbishop in Argentina also served as the Ordinary for the Orthodox there who had no Ordinariate of their own, which surely helped as well.

    • Jeffrey

      No, not Orthodox. He was an Ordinary for the Eastern Catholics.

      Nonetheless this is wonderful news

  • Josh U

    neenergyobserver, I believe Pope Francis was the ordinary for the Eastern Catholics in Argentina rather than the Orthodox. Still, this would indeed have supplied him with an insight previous popes have not had. This insight could be crucial to progress towards reconciliation of the Catholic and (East) Orthodox Churches

  • Manny

    That is wonderful news. The Schism with the east hurts me so much more than the Protestant Reformation. We are nearly the same in theology. We should be one. I don’t think I’ll see it in my lifetime, but may God bring it about.

  • Bill S

    The first thing the two churches have to do is to just agree to disagree on whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son or just from the Father. It’s unbelievable how such a difference of opinion between theologians in the west and in the east has caused so much division. I like the east because they allow priests to marry. I’ve always had a problem with celibacy. I think it inevitably leads to scandals.

    • Rick

      I think the Churches probably agree on the procession of the Holy Spirit, but there were linguistic and pastoral reasons that the West made the change. The problem is that the West had promised the East that they would not change the creed.

      The West accepts the primacy of the Father. The word proceeds mean something slightly different in Latin than the Greek word it attempts to translate. Proceeds is a very rough and inadequate equivalent of the actual Greek word. Over time the enriched meaning of the word was lost. In addition there was a heresy that developed in the West (due in part to the poorly translated word). I can’t remember which heresy, but it confused the relationship between the persons of the Trinity. The same heresy did not affect the East. Some bishops, beginning I think in Spain, added “and from the Son” to fight the heresy. Eventually it became common phrase in the West. The intent was to fight a heresy about the Trinity, caused by the inadequate word proceeds, not to deny the primacy of the Father.

      One of the compromises recommended by Pope John Paul is to go back to the original wording of the Creed, not because we have changed our belief, but because the heresy no longer affects the West. At many of the Masses at St. Peters, the phrase “and from the Son” is dropped.

  • AnneG

    Card Bergoglio was Ordinary for Eastern Rite Catholics who had no Ordinary. So, he has dual faculties.

  • Jack

    “Christians of every communion are increasingly subjected to hostility, outright discrimination and violent persecution that we come together in our mutual self defense.”
    I don’t see it as being discriminated against. The point is if you’re not Abrahamic then you’re wrong.
    And it doesn’t help that many Christians like the ones on Patheos are turning Christianity into a buffet that includes every dish.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      So … we have here blaming the victim of discrimination for the discrimination. Look down the chart and find yourself.

      • Jack

        I’m not denying what is happening, but if you see Abrahamic religion as a position relative to others, you or anyone else won’t escape “discrimination”.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          I’m not sure what you’re saying. Try again?

          • Jack

            When your good doesn’t apply to me, it is either wrong or non-existent from my point of view. And vice versa.

  • Jessica Hoff

    That is excellent news, Rebecca :)

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I agree Jessica. I couldn’t stop smiling as I typed the post.

  • John

    I dont think full unity will ever happen unless the fillioque is addressed and the primacy of the pope is sorted out as well. Plus the catholics have made so many innovations to the theology that has been completely foreign to the east. Purgatory, original sin, indulgences, infallibility of the pope. These are things that have got to be addressed or true unity will never take place. We need to unified not just as a people but in theology as well.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Baby steps John. We’re taking baby steps.

      • MaryMargaret

        I sort of disagree. I think Benedict took a huge step, when he visited the Patriarch of Constantinople. Peter went to Andrew, his brother, who received him with great joy. And now, Andrew is coming to Peter. Yay! Yes, the theological issues must be sorted out by those who actually know what they are doing. (Hint..not me) I don’t see the filioque as a defining issue. I may be wrong, but I don’t think that it is professed in the Creed in Eastern Catholic liturgies. It was a later addition..and I think that Pope Francis could remove it and we would all be fine with that. Likewise, Peter’s primacy is not really an issue..just a question of what does that really mean? Infallibility, that is a MAJOR issue. Purgatory, not so much..the Orthodox have a different understanding of purgation, or purification, but I believe they have a belief in “toll gates” or something as a way that a soul wends its way to heaven. Original sin..yep, a MAJOR issue. Please, God, help us to become one.

    • JoFro

      The fillioque is more an issue over language rather than theology. And the idea that the fillioque was the main reason for the split is nonsense. Eastern Catholics had accepted the fillioque for years without there being any major issues with it – as I said, it was more a language issue and to fight a certain heresy in Spain. The split had more to do with politics than to do with actual theology.

      As for purgatory, original sin, indulgences, infallibility of the pope – its more a matter of defining them rather than theological points – neither church denies purgatory, original sin or indulgences. As for the infallibility of the Pope, in matters of doctrine, this is nothing new.

      Whenever there were issues over Church doctrine, it was always the Bishop of Rome who had the final word on the issue. Infallibility merely gave that process a name.

  • Bill S

    Wow, John. That’s impressive. Filioque. That’s the word for the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Son. I made my Cursillo at an Orthodox retreat center and attended their mass. I like their icons.

  • Bill

    The Orthodox ordain married men to the priesthood. They don’t let priests get married (outside of the young widower with children I believe).

  • pagansister

    It is progress—as to whether the other things that separate the 2 can be solved? Time will tell.

  • Elisa

    This is just amazing! :)

    Sadly, what happened in 1054 was one in a series of events leading to the final rupture in 1472. After the Excommunications, there were still relations between East and West, although not always good. James Hitchcock’s new book “History of the Catholic Church” is a good intro into. of that period.