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Pope Francis in Jerusalem: Will the Meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew Advance Full Communion?

By Deacon Keith A Fournier
5/22/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

For the first millennium of Christianity, the Christian Church was undivided. There was legitimate diversity of expression reflecting the beauty and universality of the Gospel.

The Catholic Church proclaims that, in and through Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, authentic unity with God the Father - and with one another - is the plan of God for the entire human race. The Church is the way toward that unity. As Orthodox and Catholic Christians we should want to walk toward that unity and not fear it. The image used of two lungs breathing together is a prophetic one. The Orthodox and Catholic Churches need one another. The Church is meant to become the home of the whole human race. For the Church to continue the redemptive mission of Jesus most effectively, she must be one. It was not the Lord\'s plan that Christians be separated. It is His Plan that the Church be restored to full communion. His prayer will someday be answered. May this visit of the successor of Peter hasten that day.

Patriarch and Pope, brothers called to promote the healing in the divisions in the Body of Christ.

Patriarch and Pope, brothers called to promote the healing in the divisions in the Body of Christ.

CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - For the first millennium of Christianity, the Christian Church was undivided. There was legitimate diversity of expression reflecting the beauty and universality of the Gospel. Yet, there was clear ortho-doxy and ortho-praxy, right doctrine and right practice. 

The progress and spread of the Christian faith to the ends of the earth was certainly related to the prophetic power unleashed by such a visible witness of love. The visible and prophetic witness of the unity of the Christian Church was one of the strongest signs that the message she proclaimed was true. It was also one of the greatest weapons the Church had in her struggle against those who opposed her claim that salvation for all men and women is found in and through Jesus Christ. .
I long for full communion between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches in the Third Christian Millennium. I pray daily for the full communion of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. I do so because I believe it is the will of God that "All May be One" (John 17: 21). 

I believe the healing of the division between the two churches would unleash a profound renewal of the entire Church at the dawn of the Third Millennium, a new missionary age. I also believe that the gifts found in the whole Church will enrich both East and West and assist us in the mission which we must face together in our One Lord.

I long for full communion because I believe that it is only the fullness of Christianity which can save the West from rushing over a cliff to its own demise. The West needs the Church to once again become its soul in this age which has lost its moral compass. 

I long for full communion because, as a revert to the Christian faith, one who returned to my Catholic faith as a young man, I walked the way home by way of the early Church Fathers. Had I not had been baptized a Catholic of the Latin Rite; I might have become an Eastern Christian.

My theological studies and theological viewpoint are profoundly Eastern in their orientation. So too is my worship. I have long prayed with icons and love the Divine Liturgy. However, I cherish the Chair of Peter as a gift, and a unifying principle for all of Christianity.

Finally, I long for the coming full communion of East and West because my oldest son is an Orthodox Christian. He, his wife and their children are all practicing Orthodox Christians. This summer my wife Laurine and I will visit he, his wife, and two of our six grandchildren in June.

The more I visit them the more I come to appreciate the interweaving of faith and life which comes with Eastern Christianity and its practices. Yet, the more painful our separation at the Altar, the Eucharistic Table, also becomes.

I believe the sense of separation gives me a glimpse into the heart of the Lord who longs for our unity. It has never been the desire of the Lord that His Church be divided. To the contrary, the prayer recorded in John 21 will be fulfilled, so that the world may believe!
 
I watch for every sign that the two lungs of the One Church are beginning to fill with the one breath of Divine Life, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit alone can animate the One New Man, Jesus Christ, to heal the division which has gone on for too long in His Body.

I watch with the eyes of living faith. Some say I see these developments with Rose Colored glasses. If I do see through the color of rose, it is because the color symbolizes the hope which comes from faith in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus. It is also because of my bedrock conviction concerning His one plan for His One Church.

Pope Francis is dedicated to working toward some form of full communion between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. Our relationship with orthodox Christians is distinct from our relationship with the communities which descend from the protestant Reformation in the West.

We recognize the Orthodox Churches as full Churches -  and we recognize their sacraments - what they often call, using the Greek, the mysteries. (See, CCC #838) We are sister churches. On March 20, 2013 Pope Francis spoke these words to delegates of the Orthodox Churches, the Oriental Orthodox Churches and Ecclesial Communities of the West:

Let us all be intimately united to our Savior's prayer at the Last Supper, to his invocation: ut unum sint. We call on the merciful Father to be able to fully live the faith that we have received as a gift on the day of our Baptism, and to be able to it free, joyful and courageous testimony. The more we are faithful to his will, in thoughts, in words and in deeds, the more we will truly and substantially walk towards unity.

The Catholic Church proclaims that, in and through Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, authentic unity with God the Father - and with one another - is the plan of God for the entire human race. The Church is the way toward that unity. As Orthodox and Catholic Christians we should want to walk toward that unity and not fear it. The image used of two lungs breathing together is a prophetic one. The Orthodox and Catholic Churches need one another.

The Church is meant to become the home of the whole human race. For the Church to continue the redemptive mission of Jesus most effectively, she must be one. It was not the Lord's plan that Christians be separated. It is His Plan that the Church be restored to full communion. His prayer will someday be answered. May this visit of the successor of Peter hasten that day.

There is an exciting development which I am happy to report to our global readers. On May 15, 2014, in anticipation of the May 25, 2014 meeting between of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Jerusalem, the following joint statement of Roman Catholic Archbishop Kurtz and  Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios was released:

JOINT STATEMENT

Fifty years ago, in January 1964, two great Christian leaders met in Jerusalem. Pope Paul VI of Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople swept aside centuries of hostility and embraced one another in the city where Christ was crucified and rose from the dead.

The Pope's gift of a chalice to the Patriarch and the Patriarch's gift of an encolpion (an episcopal pectoral medallion with an icon of Christ) to the Pope showed that they were determined to work for the victory of love over enmity, of communion over division.

Reflecting on that encounter immediately after returning to Rome, Pope Paul said, "I had this morning the great happiness of embracing - after a gap of many centuries - the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. We hope that these beginnings will bear good fruit, that the seed will spring up and become fully ripe." 

Fifty years later, we rejoice that those beginnings in Jerusalem have indeed born good fruit. In December 1965 both Churches consigned the 1054 excommunications between Rome and Constantinople to oblivion, erasing them from the memory of the Church.

Meetings between Popes and Ecumenical Patriarchs and other contacts became more common, and led to the establishment of an international theological dialogue between the two churches that met for the first time in 1980 and continues to the present day.

Here in the United States, the leaders of our churches followed the example set by the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch and - at the initiative of Archbishop Iakovos of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese - set up a national theological dialogue in 1965, which has functioned uninterruptedly since its establishment.

Joined on the Catholic side by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1997, this theological consultation has issued thirty agreed statements over the years, carefully examining the issues that still divide us and proposing ways to resolve them.

We wish to take the opportunity presented by the meeting between Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Jerusalem in May 2014 to reaffirm the dialogue of love initiated by Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras and to continue to strive to remove that which separates us.

We not only express our appreciation of the work of our North American dialogue, but also our joy that our Churches have increasingly been able to speak with one voice on the pressing issues that our society faces today.

We commit ourselves to increased cooperation in these areas, including social, economic, and ethical dilemmas, and we call our people to pray for the success of the upcoming meeting between Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Jerusalem for the glory of God and the promotion of Christianity in our wounded world.

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