Published December 4, 2006
Rome and Constantinople formally parted ways via mutual excommunications in 1054, after centuries of controversy in which geography and language played perhaps as large a role as controverted questions of theology and liturgical practice. However we understand the reasons for the split between Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy, those mutual excommunications opened up a religious and psychological fault line that would have profound historical consequences throughout the second millennium of Christian history.
Ever since the historic 1964 meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, Catholic theologians and Orthodox scholars have worked to close the breach formalized almost a thousand years ago so that the church could once again “breathe with both lungs,” as the late Pope John Paul II liked to put it.
So when Pope Benedict XVI, successor of the apostle Peter, goes to Istanbul on Nov. 28 to meet Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, successor of the apostle Andrew, the pontiff’s primary concerns will be ecumenical: how might he and Bartholomew (who did some of his doctoral work in Rome) advance the dialogue between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, so that Peter and Andrew and the churches they embody might, one day, find themselves again in full communion with each other?
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and holds EPPC’s William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.