The leader of the 24 million adherents to the Greek branch of Orthodoxy is predicting unity between East and West sometime in the near future, as reported by the Serbian news portal B92.net.
His Most Divine All-Holiness the Archbishop of Constantinople New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I has been known to believe that reunification between the two Patriarchies will eventually occur, but that he “will not live to see it.”
Not to Be Confused as a “Pope”…
Patriarch Bartholomew is recognized as the primus inter pares (first among equals) in the Eastern Orthodox communion, which claims 300 million followers worldwide.
His All-Holiness has invited the newly elected leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, Pope Francis, to visit the Patriarchate of Constantinople, geographically located in the since re-named Istanbul, on November 30 of this year to jointly celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew, the patron saint of the Orthodox Patriarchate.
Seen by many politically-minded as also a move to counter the growing influence of Islam in Europe, Pope Francis could be following the lead of his predecessor, the now retired Pope Benedict XVI, as the reason the Catholic Church is striving for unification with the 14 autocephalous (self-governing) branches of Orthodoxy.
The 14 autocephalous Churches consist of:
- Czech Lands and Slovakia
The Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church has been meeting since 1980 to further the cause of Christian unity.
Most notably were the agreements that both ecclesiastical entities consider each other to be “sister churches” and that both maintain valid sacraments to include the Eucharist and Holy Orders.
The Russian Connection…
As the largest branch of Orthodoxy, the Russian Church foresees closer relations with Rome.
As quoted by the Russian news service Kommersant, Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk and head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Department of External Relations recently stated:
We see a large area of possibilities for partnership with the Roman Catholic Church.
We hope that our relationship as partners will grow under the leadership of this new Pontiff.
Bishop Hilarion was also quoted by Kommersant as stating:
Pope Francis has declared on more than one occasion that he feels close to the Orthodox Church and would like to have close contact between the two Churches.