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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

May 29: anniversary of the fall of Constantinople

David Hartline (the Catholic Report) notes this sad anniversary and observes that radical Islam has not changed much over the centuries. It's referred to as the Black Tuesday, May 29, 1453, when the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople 656 years ago. With that invasion came the death of the last Byzantine emperor and the end of the Byzantine empire. Some eye-openers in that wiki link are the occasions prior to that when Rome and Constantinople were actually negotiation a reunification of the two lungs of the Catholic Church. I think that classic adage will always hold true: united we stand, divided we fall. The Lord did say that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand, and so it couldn't. But he did promise that the very gates of hell would never prevail against his Church, which stands to this day but is ailing from within. The Schism with the East has yet to end, but we hope will, very soon. The division with the Protestants remain, and is perhaps most poignant in the continuing feuds between Protestant and Catholic Ireland, where the divisions are deadly. But even that can be mended, not because we have the capacity to mend those divisions, but because the Holy Spirit does, and the need is greater than ever. How is the need greater than before, when Mehmed II was besieging Constantinople? I think it's because this time, the danger attacks from within the Church, from people inside who have started hating themselves and their own heritage. Now, more than ever, we need our brothers and sisters from the Orthodox Church to remind us and the world just what Catholic really means. It isn't coincidence that, while many of our own pastors have forgotten that, and have shunned orthodoxy, our greatest help can come from the Orthodox Church. It's easy to theorize that our Catholic heritage was born of innovations by the Roman Catholic Church. The only thing that spoils those theories is a good, hard look at the same heritage coming from the Orthodox Church -- which is not Roman at all.

While we mourn for Constantinople, as we must, I think there is enough room in our hearts, after 647 years, to also hope.

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