By Robin Gomes
An official delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in Istanbul, Turkey, will be in Rome, June 27-29, on the occasion of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, June 29.
St. Peter, the first bishop of Rome, and St. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, were both martyred in Rome and are patrons of the Eternal City. Their feast is a holiday both in Rome and in the Vatican.
Each year, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Vatican send delegations for the feasts of their respective patrons. The Vatican sends a delegation to Istanbul on the November 30 feast of St. Andrew, the patron of the Patriarchate.
The current delegation of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I will be headed by Archbishop Job (Getcha) of Telmissos, who represents the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the World Council of Churches and is co-chair of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church which meets periodically.
The delegation that includes Bishop Maximos of Melitene and Deacon Bosphorios Mangafas will be received in audience by Pope Francis on June 28 and it will also hold meetings with the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
On Saturday, June 29, the delegation will attend the solemn Eucharistic celebration presided over by the Holy Father, during which he traditionally blesses the Pallium that will be sent to new metropolitan archbishops across the world. The pallium is a band of white wool which metropolitan archbishops wear around their shoulders as a symbol of their authority and their unity with the Pope.
Healing divisions of the past
The first major split within Christianity took place over 900 years ago. The growing estrangement from the 5th to the 11th century between the Byzantine Church based in Constantinople and the Rome-based Catholic Church came to a head with the Great Schism of 1054 which split the followers of Christ into Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Catholicism.
The desire to heal the past came from the Catholic Church in the 20th century with the Second Vatican Council, 1962 to 1965. However, it took the courage, openness and foresight of two great leaders from both sides to dismantle the shame and scandal of over 900 years. This historic event took place on January 5, 1964, when Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople met and embraced each other in Jerusalem.
Since then the two Churches have been engaged in dialogue towards communion.