Serbian Patriarch Proposes Summit with Pope

by Edwin Faust
February 5, 2010

In a development that may justly be called astounding, Patriarch Irinej Gavrilovic, the newly chosen head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, held a press conference on Jan. 28 to suggest that it was time the Pope and Orthodox leaders met to discuss ways of healing the longstanding schism with Rome.

He proposes that there be a grand summit in the year 2013 in the city of Nis, the birthplace of the Emperor Constantine, who issued the Edict of Milan in 313. The summit would also be a celebration of the 1700th anniversary of the edict that freed Christians from persecution for the practice of their religion in the Roman Empire. The patriarch envisions this meeting as a step toward full communion with the Holy See.

“This new path should be Christian and sincere with the desire of establishing one Church of Christ,” he said.

The Vatican has responded favorably to the proposal. A pope has never visited Serbia, known as one of the Orthodox communions that has historically been most hostile to the Catholic Church.

Father Federico Lombardi, head of the Vatican press office, told the Belgrade paper Blic that the Vatican welcomes the patriarch’s suggestion “with great joy”.

This warming in relations with the Orthodox has been a notable feature of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. The Patriarch of Moscow has allowed some of the Pope’s words to be translated and made available to the Russian Orthodox, signifying a major change in the patriarchate’s attitude toward Rome. There is even preliminary discussion of a papal visit.

The shift in attitude on the part of the Orthodox may be attributed to Pope Benedict’s efforts to restore the Latin liturgy and curb modernism which have given the Orthodox some assurance that he is a pope committed to Tradition, which they value.

There is also a growing sense among those communions that have broken away from Rome that they are under assault by a secular culture and that the time has come to join forces in a life-and-death battle for the future of religion. Secularism may prove to be a powerful force in reuniting the various sects of Christendom under the papal banner.

But nothing will prove as powerful as the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as requested by Our Lady of Fatima. Perhaps, the rapprochement between Rome and Orthodox patriarchs will embolden the Pope and the bishops to perform the consecration.

Let us join with the Holy Father, who, in praying for the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, said: “May it be so.”

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