Pope Benedict has said that healing the schism and uniting all Christians is a fundamental priority of his papacy. Standing on the shoulders of a giant, Pope Benedict seems to be pruning and reaping what the Servant of God John Paul II began. Pope John Paul II was the first pontiff to visit Orthodox Greece in 1,231 years, as well as the first pope to visit and Eastern Orthodox country since the Great Schism of 1054.
Quietly happening behind the scenes...
Theological discussions have been occurring in Cyprus between Catholic and Russian Orthodox representatives. Most recently on the agenda were discussion on Ecclesiology and the primacy of the Pope. Serious progress has been made since Patriarch Kirill was elected following the death of the more hard-lined Alexy II last January. He had headed the external relations department of the world's largest Orthodox Christian church for nearly 20 years, making him point man for ties with the Vatican. In that capacity, he met with Benedict in December 2007. They share a mutual respect for each other and it is reported that Kirill is a big fan of Benedict's writing.
Cardinal Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity and leading the talks, said “The main problems that need to be addressed are the ones of Ecclesiology: what is the Church, where does it find itself? Who are its ministers? Apostolic Succession, etc. These problems have consequences in the Eucharist, for example, because the ordained person is the minister of the Eucharistic celebration.”
On September 18, Pope Benedict met with Russian Orthodox Archbishop Hilarion, president of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations. The private meeting took place at the pope's summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. AP reported on October 1st that Pope Benedict is planning a June 2010 trip to the island of Cyprus at the invitation of a Cypriot Orthodox archbishop, Chrysostomos II. Speculation abounds that Chrysostomos II's meetings with both Pope Benedict and Patriarch Kirill indicates a Catholic/Orthodox Ecumenical Summit.
Perhaps today's big news about the Anglican Personal Ordinariates has set the precedent for the canonical structure to reunite the Orthodox as well. Deo Volente!
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