Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tom Hanks

This is the first in a series of January posts about the Greek connection to John Paul II and the papacy in our time.  Enjoy!
3 Degrees

Third Degree: Tom Hanks married Rita Wilson in an Orthodox Christian ceremony in 1988.  Here are a few pictures from their wedding reception.   They had a big fat Greek wedding with this guy as their DJ and emcee.
Greek dancing at their wedding in 1988

The happy couple in Life magazine

After a childhood dabbling in Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, and various Protestant sects, Tom Hanks grew into the Orthodox Church via his love for Rita Wilson.

Second Degree: Father John Bakas, Dean of St. Sophia Cathedral in Los Angeles, California.

Tom and Rita have received the body and blood of our Lord and Savior at the hand of this man, Father Bakas.  Father Bakas is a fascinating character to me.  I attended St. Sophia for the years of my graduate school education and a few beyond.

The tradition of the cathedral was to change priests every 4-6 years.  Father Bakas came to St. Sophia just after I moved from Los Angeles in 2000 and has been there ever since.  He seems to possess that illusive combination of piety and flash that is needed to survive the crowd in L.A.  The people of his flock are amazingly wealthy, demanding, and can be very difficult at times.  Father Bakas has struck a balance to lift every heart higher and challenge his flock spiritually without alienating them or rejecting them.  This is truly a great gift from God and my hat is off to Father Bakas!

First Degree: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I
Father Bakas told me through email that he met the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church in Constantinople (Istanbul) on several occasions.  His All Holiness was good friends with John Paul II. Click here for video of the two men. 
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope John Paul II
Did you know?
There is "one, holy, and apostolic church," and the Roman Catholic Church is just one part of it.  There is an Eastern branch as well.  Some elements of this branch are in full communion with Rome, they are Byzantine Catholics, Eastern Catholics, Maronites, Melikites, Chaldeans, Babylonians, and dozens of others.  Some elements of the Eastern branch are not in communion with Rome, these are the Orthodox Churches.  

The split (schism) between the Orthodox east and the Roman west took about 500 years to complete and began around 900 AD.  In that process  there were many betrayals and sins committed by both sides against each other.  One of the most egregious was the Fourth Crusade of 1205.  In that event, Roman "pilgrims" sacked Constantinople in a gleeful, frat-party-like spree.  The women were raped, men were killed for sport, holy sites were looted and desecrated, and the city was burnt to the ground.  The photo above of Bartholomew and John Paul II is of a liturgy in celebration of the return of the relics of St. Gregory the Theologian to the Orthodox Church.  Those relics were stolen during the Fourth Crusade.

As in any family, cruelty, indifference, arrogance, and lack of both humility and forgiveness are habits that feed upon themselves.  The centuries of sinful separation, between the Eastern and Western churches, that precede us cannot be undone by a mere 50 years of good will and friendship.  But, with the Holy Spirit, it is doubtful that we will have to wait 1000 years for a complete reconciliation.  
John Paul II is the pope in apostolic succession from Saint Peter.  Bartholomew I is the patriarch in apostolic succession from Saint Peter's brother, Saint Andrew.  It is unnatural and very wrong that brothers should be out of communion.  Both men strive to reunite the churches.  John Paul II as a saint and Bartholomew as the current Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church in Istanbul.

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