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Catholic News Agency reports that a group of U.S. Catholic and Eastern Orthodox clergy and scholars are working on a statement regarding the prospects for reunification, nearly a thousand years after the Great Schism split the church into eastern and western bodies.

I have to do more research, but given what I already know from professional and personal experience, this is an incredibly unrealistic goal. The various branches of Orthodox churches (Greek, Russian, OCA) can’t even agree to unite within America; there are separate groups within Russia and Greece, as well. There isn’t even a shared date for Easter most years between and among Catholics and Orthodox Christians around the world. Plenty of traditional Orthodox Christians consider Catholics to be heretics, prompting some mild anxiety recently about how Pope Benedict would be received in Cyprus. Last but not least, hinted at by Gary Stern at Blogging Religiously, is simply that there are layers upon layers upon layers of bureaucratic and theological differences large and small that would have to be addressed, nevermind the highly emotional angles involving things like tradition, ethnic identity, etc.

All this leads me to believe that reunification isn’t really the goal here — perhaps this North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation just aims to keep the ecumenical dialogue moving forward, emphasizing what the groups have in common and encouraging the global warming of Catholic-Orthodox relations we’ve been seeing since the Cold War ended (particularly out of Russia).

Still, it’s always nice to report on interfaith efforts on this beat, as opposed to just focusing on conflicts all the time. And, certainly there seems to be more hope for a Catholic-Orthodox reconciliation than there would be for a Catholic-Anglican remarriage. (Custody of the married priests keeps changing in that divorce, plus there’s the growing Anglican-Episcopalian dispute over gay clergy to consider…)

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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