The apostolic sees of Peter and Andrew have been in opposition to each other for almost a thousand years in the schism between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.
In a celebration on the Feast day of St. Andrew, and responding to the recent statements of the ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, he said that he desires as well a “full commitment” to reunion and forgiveness between the two churches.
Marking the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, Pope Francis sent a message to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople on Saturday, voicing his desire for full communion between the Catholic and Orthodox.
“It is with great spiritual joy and in profound communion of faith and charity that I join the prayer of the Church of Constantinople in celebrating the feast of its holy patron, the Apostle Andrew, the first-called and brother of the Apostle Peter,” the pope said in his letter.
“Through the delegation, I convey the assurance of the unwavering intention of the Catholic Church, as well as my own, to continue in our commitment to working towards the reestablishment of full communion among the Christians of the East and the West,” Pope Francis said. (source)
There is much that can be criticized about Francis. However, the fact is that the Schism was a very sad incident in Christian history, and that given the kind words of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Francis’ response was welcome to hear.
Much work still has to be done, and while there are differences that do exist on a theological level that could merit clarification on both sides, the fact is that most of the difference which separates the two is political. The problems of the Western Church are obvious, and plain to see. The problems of the Eastern Churches is essentially the plague of tribalism, but as the social, political, and even ethnic tides change in those nations, there is more opportunity than ever before for openness and discussion with Rome about what Christ commanded, which is that they would “all be one”.
The Ukrainian situation is an obvious example of this. Make no mistake, the separation was absolutely political, and there are many highly questionable things that happened, such as the support of the Azov battallions by many in the Church that we have commented on. That said, given the schism taking place in the Orthodox world right now and how many of the Orthodox nations are either amenable to discussions with Rome or the Churches are small to the point of being socially irrelevant as there are practically no more people attending church, possibly now would be a great time to continue dialogue and work towards a full reunion.
There is much diversity in the Christian world in terms of application and practice as well as understanding that falls in the realm of acceptable beliefs. However, the question must be answered is whether Christ intended to create one Church with a defined hierarchy rooted under St. Peter as stipulated in Matthew’s Gospel, or if He wanted the creation of a series of ethno-nationalist churches that tend to separate based on the political power of said ethnic group and have an official-unofficial union with each other so long as it is not with St. Peter?
The answer is clear to me, and it is also clear that it is long overdue for mutual forgiveness, understanding, reconciliation, and reunion, that all would be one family, with one head, and one direction of motion towards the goal of Heaven.