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Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
The last week of July I’m co-teaching CADEIO’s Institute for Ecumenical Leadership at Theological College in D.C. with Dr. John Borelli, assistant to the President at Georgetown University. John served as the director for interreligious affairs for probably over 25 years with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and was personally responsible for keeping alive the relationships between the Church not only with Jews, Muslims and Buddhists, but other Christian Communities as well. He is considered today one of the few treasures of Church knowledge in everything that happened at Vatican II and how we, as a Church, are reaching out to heal the divisions among Christians as well as the misunderstandings between Catholics and non-baptized people.
I was looking this evening at an icon of Saints Peter and Andrew. Actually, it is a plaque that was given to me when I completed my second term as president of CADEIO, the national Catholic Association of Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. As I have been studying this image, I have reflected on the incredible richness of Vatican II of which most people are unaware, perfectly summed up by Pope Francis in our modern day when he says that we must consider ourselves as brothers and sisters first, and then partners in dialogue second. The unity is already a deep bond, though we may find ourselves in disagreement, as often members of families do.
You see, Peter and Andrew were biological brothers. Actually, it was Andrew who ran to his brother Peter and brought him to Jesus. At the dawn of the Apostolic age, Peter went west to Rome, Andrew east to what would eventually become Constantinople. Christianity inculturated two drastically different cultures, and from the beginning it would seem, had very distinct contrasts in polity and worship. in the fourth century when the Roman emperor Constantine legalized Christianity and himself was baptized, he relocated the center of Christianity to Constantinople, present day Istanbul, because the destruction of the Roman empire and the decline of moral society had so ravaged Rome that it was eventually left to ruin, not to be reborn until the Renaissance.
Well, the emperor went East but the Pope stayed West, and so the power struggle began. They boiled up in the form of theological disputes at the Council of Chalcedon (451), beginning 1500 years of separation that was ratified in 1054 by mutual excommunications, ultimately broken utterly the bloody sack of Constantinople by western Crusaders in 1204.
Difference was politically manipulated as opposition rather than diversity among brothers and sisters. Sound familiar? Divide and conquer is alive and well today.
During the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI continued the intention of Pope John XXIII to bring back into one the family of God in Jesus Christ. He met with Patriarch Athenagoras I in Jerusalem, then again in Rome at the close of the council in December 1965. They mutually declared that the differences of the churches was not theological at base, and that the mutual anathemas and excommunications that were thrown at each other 1000 years ago were no longer. That is the method of the devil, after all.
We have as our greatest instruction the prayer of Jesus himself to the Father: that we be one.
God bless you.