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.