I’d like to ask you today to pray for the unity of Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Our two churches, which are so close in so many ways, have been separated by schism for nearly 1000 years, and it looks as though we might be on the verge of reunion now, which the recent popes and some of the Orthodox patriarchs have worked so hard for.
In the last few days, an ecumenical meeting has been taking place in Ravenna, Italy, a city which was once part of the Byzantine empire and boasts some of the most beautiful mosaics in the world. Pope Benedict constantly speaks of reunion with the Orthodox, and just a few months ago, he took the unprecedented step of giving back to the Orthodox the basilica of Saint Nicholas in the city of Bari, Italy. It was built centuries ago, before the schism, and contains the tomb of Saint Nicholas, originally of Myra in Turkey, but then of Bari where he became bishop. The church had been of the eastern rite, but after the split, the Catholics of Italy drove the Orthodox out and took over the church for themselves. Now, as a gesture of justice, love, and good will, Pope Benedict has given it back to them, with the proviso that Catholics can use it and venerate Saint Nicholas there, too. Just two weeks ago, I was there on our trip and found a young Greek Orthodox priest conducting a service at Saint Nicholas’s tomb. Let us pray that this gracious gesture on the part of the Pope will bring the Orthodox Patriarchs and Bishops into total unity and communion with us so that, at least between us, there will be what Our Lord wants: “one flock and one shepherd.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.