By Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski
Once again Pope Francis reminds us that we worship the God of surprises. The news today that he will meet with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in Cuba, February 12—while the pope is en route to Mexico—is literally unprecedented. A pope has never met with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, and not for lack of wanting.
Patriarch Kirill is head of a Church of some 150 million people out of the 250-300 million adherents of Eastern Orthodox Christianity worldwide. Relations with Orthodox Christians—from whom Catholics officially split in the year 1054—are a crucial part of the Catholic Church’s efforts toward Christian unity. Their faith tradition is ancient, and the Catholic Church recognizes their apostolic succession and validity of their sacraments. In the United States, Catholics and Orthodox have dialogued for 50 years, with Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis currently stewarding this important work as Catholic co-chair.
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