Ecumenical patriarch and pope to hold landmark meeting in Jerusalem

Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios is due to meet with Pope Francis in Jerusalem on Sunday and Monday in a bid to rekindle talks that began in 1964 aimed at bridging a divide between the Christian Orthodox and Catholic churches that dates back to the Great Schism of 1054.

The two religious leaders will hold four sessions of talks, according to sources, as well as a special service at one of the greatest symbols of the division, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, often the site of feuding between different denominations. The service will also be attended by a representative of the Armenian Church.

The last attempt to bridge the divide – sparked in 1054 when Pope Leo IX added the words “and the son” (in Latin – filioque) to the Nicene Creed without consulting with the Patriarchate in Constantinople – was on January 4, 1964, when Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI met in Jerusalem and agreed to end mutual excommunications. Progress since has been slow.

“The basis was set at that meeting for the abolition of anathemas and the start of dialogue,” a source from the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate, who wished to remain anonymous, told Kathimerini. “Now the two sides wish to give new impetus to the dialogue and come closer on issues that cause the most friction.”

“We should not expect anything really spectacular on a practical level, but it is important for the spirit of the 1964 meeting to remain alive and be strengthened,” the source added.

Last year Vartholomaios attended Francis’s inauguration as pope at the Vatican, the first time the head of the Orthodox Church had participated in a papal ceremony in almost 1,000 years.