Thursday, January 12, 2012
Although Christian unity is urgently needed, there is little hope that it will materialize soon. One of the major stumbling blocks is rivalry between ecclesial jurisdictions of patriarchs and bishops who each claims to have the sole right of leading the community in the same city. An example may suffice: In Egypt, there are three patriarchs - the Coptic Orthodox Pope; the Greek Orthodox Patriarch; and the Coptic Catholic Patriarch. Although the Chalcedonian Orthodox Churches and the Non-Chalcedonian Churches (including the Coptic Orthodox Church) have signed agreements since 1989 that they share the same doctrines and have the same fasts, they are still not yet one Church. As for relations with the Coptic Catholic Church, tension continues to exist between Coptic Catholics and Coptic Orthodox Christians in spite of mutual visits between the heads of both and agreements between the Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church.
In fact, all the major schisms in Christian history were partly caused by rivalry. The divisions which arose from the 5th century show rivalry for precedence between three main Sees of Christendom: Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch. The 11th century Great Schism between the See of Rome and the See of Constantinople was probably caused by a rift of estrangement in their respective cultures but was nevertheless a matter of rivalry.
The Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches reached a reunion in two Councils: The Council of Lyons I (1274) and the Council of Florence (concluded in 1445). However, the reunion fell upon the collapse of Constantinople to the Muslim Ottomans in 1453 since the military aid promised by Catholics did not help the Greek Orthodox in defending the city.
If we look at the world from our human perspective then we will surely be disappointed by the continuous failures of us Christians to be like Christ.