1920 - 2005
THE GREAT UNIFIER
BY JAROSLAV PELIKAN 
On June 3, 1979, a few months after Cardinal Karol Wojtyla became the first Slavic pope, he set out as the vision of his pontificate "that this Polish pope, this Slavic pope, should at this precise moment manifest the spiritual unity of Christian Europe", even though "there are two great traditions, that of the West and that of the East", with roots in Old Rome and "in the New Rome, at Constantinople".
He spoke these words at a time when all Slavic peoples, whether Orthodox or Catholic (or Protestant) were subject to the atheist tyranny of Marxism-Leninism, and one of his principle contributions to the realization of that vision was, in his native Poland but with ripple effects throughout the Soviet empire, to help set in motion powerful impulses of mind and spirit - and of the Spirit - that would bring down the walls and topple the regimes. The relative importance of that contribution in comparison with Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost and Ronald Reagan's defiance will continue to be debated by historians. But he did manage, by a curious form of divine irony, to answer the question attributed long before to Stalin: "How many divisions does the pope command?" The spiritual rebirth of all the Churches of Slavic Europe, which is going on even as we speak, is a major consequence of that revolution.
With several Eastern Churches his vision of spiritual unity has made significant progress. With the Assyrian Church of the East, traditionally referred to as the Nestorian Church, he signed a declaration in 1994 in which it was agreed that "the controversies of the past led to anathemas" and that "the divisions brought about in this way were die in large part to misunderstandings". Two years later, in 1996, he signed a similar declaration with the Catholicos Karekin I of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church, acknowledging that "linguistic, cultural and political factors have immensely contributed towards the theological divergences that have found expression in their terminology of formulating their doctrines" and expressing the shared "hope for and commitment to recovery of full communion between them". There have been several noteworthy expressions of mutual charity and respectful visits between this pope and Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople cordial enough to elicit criticism from isolationist elements in the various Orthodox Churches.
The least progress toward reconciliation has occurred in relations with the Orthodox Church in Russia. The end of Communist rule has brought with it a rebirth of the rivalry and mutual recrimination that have been tearing Slavic Europe apart since its conversion to Christianity more than a millennium ago by St. Cyril and St. Methodius of Thessalonica. The Venerable Bede gave the Gospel credit for unifying the peoples of Britain, but we Slavs are the only people to have been divided by the Gospel: whether to follow Cyril and Methodius in their affiliation with Constantinople (and therefore a Slavonic liturgy and autonomous national Churches), or to follow them in their appeal to the authority of the Bishop of Rome (and therefore a Latin liturgy and the centralized authority of the papacy).
The Bulgarians, Russians, Serbs and Ukrainians chose the first alternative; Croats, Czechs, Poles and Slovaks the second. The most ambitious attempt to heal that schism came in 1596, with the Union of Brest, in which several dioceses of the Church of Ukraine accepted the authority of the papacy while retaining their own liturgy and canon law. But the adherents of this union (disparagingly named "Uniats") have also been a major source of hostility between East and West. Ruthlessly persecuted by Stalin and forcibly reunited with the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow, they regained their freedom and their properties only after the fall of Communism. 
But as a consequence of the latter-day struggle over those properties and, more broadly, of obstreperous tactics from all directions, everyone's old suspicions have been confirmed. After decades of neglect (and worse), churches were in serious disrepair, but whose responsibility was it to put them back into share for worship, the Orthodox or the Greek Catholics? As in any ancient feud, it is impossible to roll things back to the status quo ante and to fix the blame.
For the old pope, this dispute was a major source of heartbreak. As he said to me at Castel Gandolfo a few months after I had been received into the Orthodox Church , he always believed that ever since the schism of 1054, "Western Christianity has been breathing on one lung". But, he was implying, so has Eastern Christendom! When so many of the historical sources of division between them have proved to be negotiable (even the central doctrinal question of the source of the Holy Spirit) and when, in the encyclical "Ut Unum Sint" ("That They May Be One") , this pope opened the question of papal primacy up for discussion, one cannot escape the feeling that everyone has missed a great opportunity.
Schisms, like divorces, take a long time to develop - and reconciliations take even longer. It will be a celebration of the legacy of Pope John Paul II and an answer to his prayers (and to those of all Christians, beginning with their Lord Himself) if the Eastern and Western Churches can produce the necessary mixture of charity and sincere effort to continue to work toward the time when they all may be one. See also: http://www.byzantines.net/epiphany/martyrs.htm
BENEDICTUS QUI VENIT IN NOMINE DOMINI
Few other words in Scripture describe better our newly elected Bavarian Pontiff who throughout his ministry has adhered to orthodoxy, to holy tradition, and to moderation in preaching the Gospel. We commend him to our readers and pray that God may grant him many years.
THE TYRANNY OF RELATIVISM
On April 18, 2005 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger spoke to the cardinals of the Catholic Church assembled to elect a new pope about the "dictatorship of relativism" and thereby unleashed a storm of criticism from the liberals of the world including the para-heretical elements in the Catholic Church today. In this homily the future pope enunciated an issue which may come to characterize his pontificate. Relativism, as we see it, is nothing more or less than the deconstruction of all objectivity in our perceptions of reality. Accordingly, there is no real, objective and historical truth, only those notions which each special proponent offers as his own idea of truth.
Relativism may be defined as cultural, as, for example, in the genital mutilation of women in some societies which perceive it as a useful expedient to restrain the alleged promiscuous tendencies of women. Thus, for multiculturalists genital mutilation cannot be wrong because it is simply not perceived as wrong in those societies. Similarly, relativism may also be personal or individual as, for example, in our society where pre-natal infanticide is deemed, at least legally, as a constitutionally protected "matter of choice and privacy" free of any judgmental criticism by those who detest it. In religion, relativism teaches that one religion is as good (or as bad) as any other, unless, of course, that religion is orthodox Christianity or Orthodox Judaism, in which case it is inherently intolerant and bad. Paradoxically the attitude of liberals toward Islam (and Islamofascism) is indifferent, if not favorable, because it challenges Christianity and Judaism.
The moral and intellectual dysfunction which is liberalism and its preeminence in academia, the media and the entertainment industry has left us in the Serbonian bog of a destructive and polarizing malaise which threatens our ability to function as a coherent and unified society. We trust that our new pontiff will continue in his and our struggle against this the foremost evil of our times.
1) The above op-ed article by Orthodox scholar and writer, Dr. Jaroslav Pelikan, appeared in the New York Times on April 4, 2005 a few days after the death of Pope John Paul II. The text in this page is Jaroslav Pelikan's; the footnotes and graphics are ours. Dr. Pelikan is professor emeritus of history at Yale University and is author of the five-volume history of "The Christian Tradition" as well as a multitude of other works about the history of the Church. He was born of Slovak Evangelical Lutheran parents and for most of his life he was associated with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. For more information about Dr. Pelikan, see The Doctrine Doctor which appears at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/newsletter/2004/dec30.html
2) In his book, THE ORTHODOX CHURCH, Orthodox hierarch, theologian and
writer, Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia (Timothy Ware), stated the following:
4) UT UNUM SINT may be viewed in its entirety at: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25051995_ut_unum_sint_en.html
5) The miracle-working icon of the Mother of God of Kazan is of unknown provenance. According to tradition, the original was found in the 16th century in the city of Kazan. The present location of the original, if it exists at all, is unknown. Copies were made later, one of which found its way out of Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution and wandered about through private collections and auction houses until it was finally acquired by a Catholic organization which gave it to the Pope in 1993 who placed it in the papal apartments where it was the object of his personal devotions. The Pope regarded himself the temporary custodian of the icon until he might one day have the opportunity to return it to the Patriarch of Moscow and Russia in the course of a personal visit. Despite repeated Vatican efforts to arrange a meeting with Patriarch Alexy, an invitation from the Moscow Patriarchate to the Pope never came. Nevertheless, the icon was presented by Cardinals Walter Kasper and Theodore McCarrick to Patriarch Alexy on the Feastday of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary in 2004. It is now lodged in the Cathedral of the Assumption in Kazan. Pope John Paul had hoped that the icon might serve to promote his long-desired reconciliation of the Churches of Rome and Russia, sundered since 1054, but at the time that was not to be. Accordingly we have designated it as Our Lady of Reconciliation with the following words of Pope John Paul: "May this ancient image of the Mother of the Lord express to His Holiness Alexy II and to the venerable Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church the affection of the Successor of Peter for them and for all the faithful entrusted to them."