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Pope Francis Builds a Bridge to the Eastern Church

Although Pope Francis' 2014 visit to the Holy Land garnered a lot of attention for a range of issues, including the hope for interfaith dialog among Muslims, Jews and Christians, the main purpose of his trip was to work toward healing the break between the Eastern and Western Orthodox churches, by meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Pope timed his visit to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting between Popw Paul VI and Patriarch Bartholomew's predecessor Athenagoras. 

The 1964 meeting of the heads of the Eastern and Western Churches ended nearly 1,000 years of estrangement dating back to 1054. Until their historic reconciliation, there had been no communication between the religious leaderships of the two traditions since 1453. However, 50 years after Paul and Bartholomew met, tensions remain.

In a news video report prepared by correspondent Kim Lawton for Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, a source for cutting-edge reporting at the intersection of religion and society, the Rev. Alexander Karloutsos, a leader in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, summarized the Greek Church's position regarding the role and authority of the Pope: "If it is the first among equals, the chief of the apostles, then the Orthodox Church readily recognizes that. If it's an authoritarian, 'I have the role of truth and no one else,' then that's seriously a problem that the Orthodox would have a hard time accepting."

Nevertheless, he continued, "When they're praying together, it can show that people, in spite of the differences or dogmatic symbolisms, they can talk to each other in love, pray to the one Father, reach out to the brothers and sisters in the world in reconciliation."

For another perspective on building bridges across longstanding divides, see our resource link, "Life Changing Ministry Develops from Cross-Race Friendships." You might also appreciate our feature article, "Managing Conflict Constructively

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