Pope Francis met with authorities of the Orthodox Church in Greece during the weekend of December 4. When he was entering the establishment where the meeting was to take place, an extremely uncomfortable situation arose when one of the veteran priests rebuked him and accused him of being a “heretic.”

Francis visited the city of Athens in Greece with the intention of meeting with the head of the Greek Orthodox Church and other authorities with the supposed aim of bringing the Eastern and Western Catholic churches closer together.

In the run-up to one of his meetings, the Pope was accompanied by his entourage while climbing some steps when he was surprised by an elderly priest, who rebuked him by repeatedly shouting: ‘Pope, you are a heretic!’

The moment was extremely uncomfortable for all present and ended when police officers threw the elderly man to the ground and took him by force into custody.

The video shows the man, dressed in the typical black robe, black hat, and long white beard, shouting the words in Greek outside the building before the police took him away.

While Francis seems unfazed by what was happening, given the proximity of the elderly man, it is hardly credible to consider that the Pope did not hear the priest’s comments.

Despite the altercation, both Christian leaders were very friendly in their remarks and forged a mutual commitment to work together on a number of progressive policies such as the issue of the fight to protect migrants.

The supreme pontiff lamented that “Europe continues to hesitate” in the face of migrant arrivals, “instead of being an engine of solidarity.”

Francis’ visit to Greece comes after two decades since Pope John Paul II made the first such visit to Greece, which was used to apologize for sins “by action or omission” committed by Catholics against the Orthodox over the centuries.

Francis spoke in the same vein as his predecessor and lamented the historical events that led to the conflicts between the two factions of the Catholic Church. 

Ieronymos II, the current Archbishop of Athens and highest authority of the Greek Orthodox Church, said he shared the Pope’s vision of forging strong ties to address global challenges such as climate change and immigration.

“If the world community, the leaders of powerful states, and international organizations do not take bold decisions, the ever-threatening presence of vulnerable refugee women and children will continue to grow globally,” Ieronymos warned as reported by AP News.

“Together, we must shake the rocks and the walls against the intransigence of the powerful of the Earth,” he continued.

Christianity split into the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches in 1054 in what is known as the Great Schism, and for centuries relations were rocky.

Finally, it now appears that their respective leaders have found some common ground on progressive policies, allowing for a historic rapprochement and even promises of working together. 

Reality shows that not all the faithful share the same ideas as their leaders, which is demonstrated by the large number of opponents that have emerged within the Western Catholic Church. The event of the Orthodox elder makes it clear that these internal issues are also manifested in the Greek Orthodox Church. 

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