Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew made the VERY bold proposal that in 2025 the Churches ought to meet in an ecumenical synod (meeting). This is not Vatican III, depending on the scope of the Church’s heads, it is likely to be bigger than that. This event, this gathering, could be a considerable groundbreaking event for the universal CHURCH, east and west.

The 1964 meeting with Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem –which was just feted for being 50 years old– now has an identifiable fruit: a fuller understanding of announcing Jesus Christ as a fact and that His embrace is for all people.

A worldwide meeting of this type will not simply be a commemoration of the Council of Nicea (AD 325) nor merely an administrative session to figure out how to promulgate decrees. It is a step, in my opinion, toward uniting Christians from East and West, small yet deliberative gestures are a good thing. Hence, it is premature to say that this is a meeting leading to definitive eucharistic unity.

AsiaNews is reporting that His All Holiness Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, wants an ecumenical “gathering” to be held in Nicea (now Iznik, 130 km south- east of Istanbul) in 2025.

Speaking exclusively with AsiaNews, Bartholomew says that together with Pope Francis “we agreed to leave as a legacy to ourselves and our successors a gathering in Nicaea in 2025, to celebrate together, after 17 centuries, the first truly ecumenical synod, where the Creed was first promulgated.”

The exact nature of the meeting is unknown at present. In fact, there has been no formal announcement of, or a decree convoking of an official gathering of bishops by the Vatican. Hence, It is very early to jump to conclusions that such an Ecumenical Council involving bishops from both the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches would take place.The Orthodox Patriarch did say last week that “a meeting of the Catholic-Orthodox Joint Commission  will be held hosted by the Greek Orthodox patriarch Theophilos III. It is a long journey in which we all must be committed without hypocrisy.”

What does the proposed 2025 meeting in Nicea mean right now? It shows a clear commitment of the heads of two churches to the process of concrete dialogue. Theological and fraternal conversation is an act of competent theologians taking the needed time to allow certain pieces of data to mature. The work of dialogue doesn’t often lead to immediate action like sharing the altar, but it does lessen tensions wiping away misunderstanding. Dialogue does not mean a compromise in dogma and doctrine as there has to be internal coherence of belief.

Looking down the road a bit, I doubt that Francis and Bartholomew will be the heads of their respective Churches. They’ll likely age-out.