Pope Francis Moves to Repair the 1,000 Year Great Schism

It was nearly 1,000 years ago in 1054 when the Catholic Church experienced what is now called “The Great Schism”. Now, Pope Francis has made it clear that he will meet with Patriarch Kirill, his counterpart in the Russian Orthodox Church, at a time and place of the patriarch’s choosing. The meeting would be historic as it would mark the first time direct dialogue occurred between the heads of the two churches since the Eastern Orthodox Church broke off. To date, the Russian Orthodox Church claims membership of 165 million members, but that figure is largely bolstered by state sponsored support for the church. The Russian Orthodox Church has also petitioned the Russian legislature for laws limiting or curtailing proselyting efforts by other Christian Churches such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, and the Mormon Church.

Not coincidentally, the Russian Orthodox Church accuses Rome of taking advantage of the fall of communism to persuade its members to rejoin the Catholic faith. Mikal Watts isn’t sure how much truth there is to that, but at least a little. The Roman Catholic Church, which claims 1.2 billion members, denies it has any active proselyting efforts targeting the Russian Orthodox Church. Should the two religious leaders meet, the proselyting issue is sure to be brought up. Also, there remain unresolved issues with lands and buildings confiscated by Russian dictator Josef Stalin from the Eastern Rite Catholics. After the fall of communism, many of those properties were returned, but not all. The location of the meeting would likely be in a neutral setting such as Austria or Hungary.

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