Visit a Roman Catholic and an Eastern Orthodox liturgy, and the differences are stark: Catholic statues vs. Orthodox icons, celibate vs. married priests, communion wafers vs. hunks of bread.
Pay closer attention, and other distinctions become apparent, including how each side makes the sign of the cross, when they celebrate Easter and how they refer to the Holy Spirit.
In the nearly 1,000 years since Christianity split into East and West, the two sides have grown farther and farther apart. Yet basic compromises -- or simply agreeing to disagree -- could resolve most issues, according to representatives from both sides who recently met at Georgetown University.
The trouble, it turns out, is the pope.
After a recent meeting of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, two dozen participants from both sides issued a statement aimed at guiding the churches back to their shared roots. Members could imagine a reunited church with a new calendar and old prayers, but “the central problem is the role of the pope,” said Paulist Fr. Ronald G. Roberson, associate director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ ecumenical office.