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Undoing a Catholic and an Orthodox Christian Feud

There’s an anecdote about twins still in their mother’s womb. They argued about who should come out first. One of the embryos complained “I’m the most beautiful; I should be born first.”

“Maybe you are beautiful,” responded the other, “but I’m the strongest; I should ooze out first.”

The pair pushed and shoved in their mother’s uterus until their umbilical cords broke. The mother miscarried and both fetuses perished.

Divisiveness is a scoundrel who can’t leave without being pushed and who won’t leave without being forced. He is the star in his own drama.

How many times have Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians seen his film in the theater of Christian dispute?

Pope John Paul II has waged war against divisions within Christianity in hopes of hastening a curtain call to these stains on divine memory. We wish him well. Selfishness, theology, self-righteousness and conceit are the emcees that have broadcast disunity among Christian communities for centuries.

But the Pope took a welcomed step in his battle. He recently returned the bones of John Chrysostom and Gregory Nazianzen to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians. These honored ancient leaders’ graves were looted from Constantinople, today known as Istanbul in Turkey, in 1204 by Catholic marauders during the Fourth Crusade.

In 1054, from Constantinople and beyond to Rome and beyond, division immigrated to Christianity. The Eastern Orthodox Church broke with the Catholic Church because the two branches of Catholicism differed over rites, the wording of prayers, the use of unleavened bread in the Catholic Eucharist, territory, church calendar and other matters.

Pope Paul speeded up his quest after Orthodox leaders accused Rome of trying to evangelize Eastern believers, especially in the Ukraine and Romania. To assure the Orthodox Church Rome had no intention of stealing Orthodox believers, the Pontiff offered to return the bones.

Matthew 5:23-24 says “If you offer your gift at the altar and there remember someone has something against you, leave your gift before the altar. First, go and reconcile yourself to that person, then come and offer your gift.”

Despite the embargoes Catholics and Protestants have established between each other and within their own borders, we hope Christians worldwide will look downrange from their own hills and someday migrate toward the plains of unity, using this episode between Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians as an example.

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Copyright © 2005 by James Strong

To contact James Strong, please send an email to: linwood_jl@yahoo.com.

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