Catholic and Orthodox have been estranged since 1054, but Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew are showing fresh determination to end the schism. Francis' case for unity is different to those of his predecessors, writes John Allen.
Sometimes what a pope doesn’t say can be just as important as what he does, and such was the case in Turkey last Sunday as Pope Francis laid out his vision for unity between Catholics and Orthodox Christianity.
Francis offered several motives for pursuing closer ties, yet conspicuously absent was the imperative most often cited by more conservative Catholics and Orthodox: Making a common stand against secularism, especially permissive sexual morality.
In effect, the Pope’s case rested not on the wars of culture, but on the social gospel.
The official reason for the Pontiff’s November 28-30 trip to Turkey was to meet the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, who is considered the “first among equals” of Orthodox leaders.
On Sunday, the Pontiff took part in an Orthodox liturgy at the Church of St George in the Phanar, the headquarters of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which provided him with a platform to lay out his ecumenical vision.
Francis voiced clear support for “full communion,” meaning that Orthodox and Catholics would recognise a common set of teachings and sacraments and a common governance structure. In essence, they would see one another as members of a single Church.
Knowing that concerns about papal power have long been a stumbling block, Francis insisted that full communion “does not signify the submission of one to the other, or assimilation.”
He then ticked off three reasons why Orthodox and Catholics should come together: to defend the poor, to end war and heal conflicts, and to help young people to see past materialism and to embrace a “true humanism.”
“There are too many women and men who suffer from severe malnutrition, growing unemployment, the rising numbers of unemployed youth, and from increasing social exclusion,” Francis said.
“We cannot remain indifferent before the cries of our brothers and sisters,” he said. “They ask us to fight, in the light of the Gospel, the structural causes of poverty: Inequality, the shortage of dignified work and housing, and the denial of their rights as members of society and as workers.”
He was equally passionate about war. “Taking away the peace of a people, committing every act of violence — or consenting to such acts — especially when directed against the weakest and defenceless, is a profoundly grave sin against God,” he said.
Read full article: Francis rolls out ‘social gospel’ case for Catholic/Orthodox unity (Crux)
Patriarch Bartholomew: Christian martyrdom makes unity urgent (Vatican Radio)
Pope Brings Message of Interreligious Peace to Istanbul (The New York Times)
Pope Francis makes overtures to Orthodox and Muslims, but steep challenges remain (The Washington Post)
Pope Francis in Istanbul points to 'Unitatis Redintegratio' (Vatican Radio)
An Orthodox view of Pope and Patriarch's Turkish encounter (Vatican Radio)
Timothy George: Ecumenism after 50 years (First Things)
Pope recalls Turkey trip (Catholic News Service)
Pope, patriarch pray for unity (Catholic News Service)
Top 10 moments of the Pope's trip to Turkey (Rome Reports)
IMAGE credit: CNS.