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Pope Benedict’s upcoming trip to Cyprus, a majority Greek Orthodox country, has church leaders on both sides hoping the island’s first papal visit helps continue to improve Catholic-Orthodox relations, about a thousand years after the Great Schism split the church into eastern and western factions.

(As I wrote last week, most Cypriots don’t seem much impressed by the pontiff’s plans; Archbishop Chrysostomos has even admonished critics to “stay at home” during Benedict’s appearances. But, the tiny Catholic population — the dwindling Maronite faithful and the island’s domestic workers from the Philippines and other countries — seems excited, at least.)

Meanwhile, Eastern Orthodox leaders are also working on improving relations between their various ethnic branches, with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (NOT Orthodoxy’s pope — see GetReligion for more on that common misconception) leading several worship services with Russian Patriarch Kirill in Moscow recently. And, in America, Orthodox Christian leaders are also convening to discuss ecumenical issues (though Beliefnet’s Rod Dreher takes issue with the “observer” status of the Orthodox Church in America at this meeting).

At this rate, assuming all these ecumenical efforts continue, it seems more likely than not that a long-awaited meeting between the spiritual leaders of Rome and Moscow — a papal wish that eluded Pope John Paul II — may happen in the next year or two. Amazing… there’s some sort of punny analogy to be made here about the Cold War completely melting away and hell freezing over, but it’s beyond me at the moment. Have at it, Comments section.

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