OPINION

Papal trip sends dual message

Pope Benedict’s visit to Istanbul and his meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios are both of major historical significance. This is not the first meeting between the leaders of Christianity’s two branches. However, this pope’s visit, like previous ones, will not suffice to bridge the theological differences that led to the Schism many centuries ago. The differences remain and there has never been a question of subjugating one church to the other. They are both Christian churches, notwithstanding their differences in style and internal proceedings. What matters these days is our relationship with others. The Istanbul meeting draws its historical significance from this need. But there is also another, perhaps more important, dimension to this event. The pontiff’s visit is an acknowledgment that despite the repeated blows against it, the Phanar remains the center of Orthodox Christianity and that the patriarch is its representative and interlocutor. The message is not just aimed at the Turkish establishment that wants to undermine the power of the Patriarchate, but at all Christian churches as well.