Today we Christians often think of Christianity as “Eastern or Western” and assume that it’s always been that way. Nope. Not really.
In the first 900 years of Christianity, over 50 Popes were Greek. Greeks and Latins criss-crossed freely. Saint Irenaeus of Lyons (modern France) was Greek. Saint Theodore of Canterbury (England) was Greek.
After Gregory the Great (d. 604), every single Pope for the next 200 years was Greek. These were native Greek speaking Popes celebrating Latin liturgy in Rome.
Even the Pope that crowned Charlemagne (Saint Leo III) was Greek.
Art, hagiography, architecture, liturgy, chant, music, monasticism – all of it was criss-crossing back and forth between East and West. Christianity was Christianity.
It wasn’t until the 1000s and then especially in the 1200s that the cross-pollination ceased.
If the Eastern Orthodox returned to full union with Rome, I would suspect that after many decades, there could be Greek Popes again and that art, theology, liturgy, etc. would continue to cross-pollinate. It’s natural. It’s normal. It’s healthy for Christians everywhere.
In a future post, I will explore the tradition of loooong interregnums between Popes.