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Catholic, Orthodox Leaders Seek to Close Thousand-Year-Old Rift

Roman Catholic and Christian Orthodox leaders meeting for the first time in six years said they will continue their efforts to bridge the divide between their ancient branches of Christianity.
( [email protected] ) Sep 29, 2006 02:09 PM EDT

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) – Roman Catholic and Christian Orthodox leaders meeting for the first time in six years said they will continue their efforts to bridge the divide between their ancient branches of Christianity.

About 60 bishops, cardinals and metropolitans convened privately in the Serbian capital from Sept. 18 through Monday to restart the dialogue that broke off in 2000.

The previous talks ruptured over issues including papal authority and Orthodox complaints that Catholics were trying to poach followers in historically Orthodox territory, notably eastern Europe.

The latest meeting focused on writing a text that would serve as a basis to "seek the restoration of full communion" and close the nearly 1,000-year-old rift between the Catholic and the Orthodox, the leaders said in a statement.

"After many observations and comments made during the discussion on the text, a revised text will be discussed at the next meeting of the Joint Commission," expected next year, they said.

Representing the world's 1.1 billion Catholics and more than 250 million Orthodox Christians, the dignitaries began their latest gathering with high hopes of bringing East and West closer together. It was also a fresh start under Pope Benedict XVI, who last year declared a "fundamental commitment" to close the rift.

Christianity's East-West split began as early as the fifth century over the rising influence of the papacy and later over wording of the creed, or confession of faith. The split was sealed in 1054 with an exchange of anathemas – spiritual repudiations – between the Vatican and the patriarch of Constantinople, now Istanbul, Turkey, and still the spiritual center of Orthodoxy.

The mutual denunciations were lifted more than 40 years ago, but there has been only halting progress toward restoring bonds.

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