The contact between Pope Francis and Patriarch Krill reported in the Feb. 17 Post and Courier demonstrates the vigor with which the pope is trying to bring his church into the 21st century.
The article used two phrases — “Finally!” and “This is the will of God” — to underscore the deep personal feelings that brought about the meeting. The Post and Courier’s headline comment, however, may have overstated the case: “Pope’s visit with Orthodox head ends 1,000-year schism.”
First, it must be emphasized that it was with the Russian Orthodox patriarch. The Greek Orthodox patriarch wasn’t there. Second, the formalization of the symbolic and emotional into reality will need to be seen against the forces of two sets of bureaucracies and vested interests. Third, the historical connection between the Russian church and the KGB, along with Putin’s current needs, casts a shadow over motivations. However flawed the reconciliation, it is now part of history.
It has been as important for me as the courageous stand of Pope John XXIII in the 1960s when he declared, and Vatican Council II approved, that all baptized Christians, Protestants and Orthodox are “our separated brethren.” To me that helped breach a dividing wall of hostility that had existed for 450 years. Unfortunately, that is still an unfinished work.