The most important event of Pope Benedict’s visit to Turkey occurred early this morning when the Pope attended the celebration of the divine Eastern liturgy led by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I. I caught portions of the beautiful service on television and was blown away. During the service, both men expressed a strong desire to restore full communion between the two great churches. Following the service, there was joint blessing by the Pope and Patriarch.
The expression of these sentiments was historic, given the fact that the two churches have been apart for nearly 1000 years. Although real differences between West and East remain, they are not nearly as deep as the divisions between Catholic and Protestant churches. Both Benedict and Bartholomew seem genuinely committed to reversing the damage done in 1054. Although much work remains, the churches are the closest they’ve been in centuries to restoring One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Unfortunately, most media stories from the Papal visit to Turkey focus on Benedict’s diplomacy toward Islam. A search of news stories involving Pope Benedict uncovers more stories about his visit to the Blue Mosque and quotations of Emperor Manuel than the Divine Liturgy. Although important, Pope Benedict’s diplomatic relations with non-Christians was not the point of the visit. Here, two churches based on Apostolic tradition are making real progress on healing a rift that has officially existed since 1054. However, due to the media’s left wing, secular and short sighted worldview, they’re missing the real story.