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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Francis meets Kirill

UPDATE: Feb 15 ... Ukrainian Greek Catholics: "betrayed" by "half-truths" in Francis and Kirill’s Joint Declaration

Much in the news about the meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill ... Pope, patriarch meet in Cuba nearly 1,000 years after split

Here's a bit about the East–West Schism ...

East–West Schism, commonly referred to as the Great Schism of 1054 is the break of communion between what are now the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches, which began in the 11th century and continues .... in 1053, the first step was taken in the process which led to formal schism: the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Michael Cerularius ordered the closure of all Latin churches in Constantinople, in response to the Greek churches in southern Italy having been forced to either close or conform to Latin practices. According to the historian John Bagnell Bury, Cerularius' purpose in closing the Latin churches was "to cut short any attempt at conciliation".

In 1054, the Papal legate traveled to Constantinople for purposes that included refusing to Cerularius the title of "Ecumenical Patriarch" and insisting that he recognize Pope's claim to be the head and mother of the churches. The main purpose of the papal legation was to seek help from the Byzantine Emperor in view of the Norman conquest of southern Italy and to deal with recent attacks by Leo of Ohrid against the use of unleavened bread and other Western customs, attacks that had the support of Cerularius. Historian Axel Bayer says the legation was sent in response to two letters, one from the Emperor seeking assistance in arranging a common military campaign by the eastern and western empires against the Normans, and the other from Cerularius. On the refusal of Cerularius to accept the demand, the leader of the legation, Cardinal Humbert, excommunicated him, and in return Cerularius excommunicated Cardinal Humbert and the other legates. This was only the first act in a centuries-long process that eventually became a complete schism.


So, really, this meeting of Francis and Kirill is *not* the first step to healing the big rift between Eastern and Western Christianity - that occurred when the Pope met with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I a couple of years ago ... Pope Francis Bows, Asks For Blessing From Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew In Extraordinary Display Of Christian Unity

So why the big deal about Francis meeting Kirill - after all, the Russian Orthodox Church is just one of the Eastern Orthodox Churches (the Greek Orthodox Church is another).

It's about politics ... as an article in Christianity Today states, the Russian Orthodox Church has the majority of Orthodox members and Kirill is the heavyweight of the Eastern Orthodox Church. For some, Francis' choice to meet Kirill has negatives connotations as well as positive ones. As the Christianity Today article adds ...

The Orthodox church has previously reached out to Protestants, and some evangelicals hoped Kirill’s rise to the patriarchy of the ascendant Russian church in 2009 might improve ecumenical relations. But since Russia’s annexation of Crimea, religious freedom in the region has been curtailed. More than 1,100 religious communities that were recognized under Ukrainian law are no longer allowed under Russian law, and authorities are threatening all religions outside the Russian Orthodox Church, the US State Department reported in October. Relations between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Kiev Patriarchate have also frayed.

Kirill himself is a figure of controversy and the meshing of the Russian Orthodox Church and Putin's government has been mentioned often in the press ...

Putin and politics loom over the Pope and the Patriarch

[...] Since 2012, when Mr Putin began his third presidential term, the Kremlin has aggressively pushed an agenda of conservative social values close to the church leadership’s heart, such as curbing sexual minorities’ rights and censoring the arts. A year ago, a production of the Wagner opera Tannhäuser in Novosibirsk was closed down after the church said it was blasphemous. Members of Pussy Riot, a feminist protest group, were sentenced to two years in a labour camp for staging a “punk prayer” in Moscow’s Christ The Saviour cathedral. They appealed to the mother of god to rid Russia of Mr Putin. In contrast, Dmitry Tsorionov, a rightwing Orthodox activist, served just 10 days in prison after smashing artworks he claimed were mocking Jesus at an exhibition in Moscow last year ...

Read more ... this from John Allen at Crux: The case for caution over the pope/patriarch meeting ... and here's a 2012 article in Newsweek: Putin’s God Squad: The Orthodox Church and Russian Politics

You can read about the joint decree from Francis and Kirill at NCR and you can read the decree itself here.

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