Photo: Reuters / Osservatore Romano
In a meeting yesterday, newly minted Pope Francis met with Eastern Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew at the Vatican. It was the first time a Patriarch of Constantinople had attended a papal enthronement since the Great Schism of 1054.
While their double-pontiff hug doesn't herald the healing of the divided Christian church (a prospect that seems impossible in any scenario short of the eschaton), it does highlight a surge in ecumenical hope that's been encouraged by the new pope.
Francis has received unusually enthusiastic support from church leaders and organizations outside the RCC. Besides the Orthodox, protestant representatives of Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, and other denominations have expressed their pleasure at the new pontiff's appointment. (Ur's covered this before.)
Evangelicals are relieved by his commitment to conservative doctrine, mainline/liberal Christians appreciate his devotion to social issues and emphasis on environmental stewardship, and everyone likes his posture of humility and pastoral focus. It seems that we all can find something to love in the new Vatican.
In his address yesterday to a gathering of non-catholic leaders, Francis said
Yesterday morning, during the Mass, through you, I recognized the communities you represent. In this manifestation of faith, I had the feeling of taking part in an even more urgent fashion the prayer for the unity of all believers in Christ, and together to see somehow prefigured the full realization of full unity which depends on God's plan and on our own loyal collaboration.
What do you think? Are we entering a fresh era of Christian unity?