Pope Woos Orthodox Leader

From the January 2005 Trumpet Print Edition

Pope John Paul ii has delivered the bones of two “saints” to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew i, the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christianity, in hopes of reviving talks over unifying the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. The ceremony took place in Rome, on Nov. 27, 2004, before Bartholomew accompanied the bones back to Istanbul, the seat of Orthodox Christianity.

The bones came from two men recognized as Orthodox leaders by its 250 million members. The Vatican had held them since crusaders conquered Constantinople 800 years ago, an act that John Paul apologized for in 2001.

The ceremony was described by both leaders as a step toward unity. The pope said it was a way to “purify our wounded memories” and “strengthen our path to reconciliation.” Bartholomew said the event demonstrated that “no insurmountable problems exist in the Church of Christ” (Washington Post, Nov. 28, 2004).

John Paul’s determined efforts to reconcile with Orthodox Christianity demonstrate his desire to unify Europe under one religion, a goal he has made his primary mission since becoming pope.

The deeper significance behind the ceremony has to do with its timing: right during Ukraine’s deep division over its recent election. Ukraine, split between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, will soon have to decide whether it wants to align itself closer to an Orthodox Russia or to join the Roman Catholic nations of Western Europe in the European Union. The pope no doubt timed the event in order to swing Ukrainian sentiment in the church’s favor.

Continue to watch as the pope maneuvers on the religious and political scene to achieve his goal of uniting Europe under the Catholic religion. Read “O Come, All Ye Faithful” on www.theTrumpet.com under “Editor’s Choice” for more on this.