First since 1054? More likely: first ever.

Everyone has been reporting the great news that His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew attended today's installation Mass. What has not been correct is the part when we say it's the first time since 1054, the Great Schism. It's more likely, according to Byzantinist historian George Demacopoulos, that this is the first time ever.Over to my Fordham colleague:

Amid the crush of news reports in the past month that followed Pope Benedict's unprecedented resignation from the papacy, one of the most intriguing was the decision by His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, to attend Pope Francis' installation as Bishop of Rome. The occasion is being presented in the media as something that has not happened since the ecclesiastical schism that separated Christian East and Christian West in the eleventh century. But that characterization is almost certainly wrong -- this is quite likely the first time in history that a Bishop of Constantinople will attend the installation of a Bishop of Rome. And this is a profoundly bold step in ecumenical relations between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics, one that could have lasting significance.

Demacopoulos goes on to narrate a succinct history of why it's so unlikely that a Bishop of Constantinople has ever attended the installation of a Bishop of Rome. Read the rest of the history and its significance HERE. 

Michael Peppard is associate professor of theology at Fordham University and on the staff of its Curran Center for American Catholic Studies. He is the author of The World's Oldest Church and The Son of God in the Roman World, and on Twitter @MichaelPeppard. He is a contributing editor to Commonweal.

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