Thursday, April 14, 2022

Today on the Almanac, we tell the story of a tragic crusade and the forgiveness it inspired.

*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 14th of April 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at I’m Dan van Voorhis.

Let me give you the rundown of the 4th Crusade- seriously a disaster of a Crusade (and that’s saying a lot as the Crusades were pretty disastrous on all accounts).

In 1199 the Pope (Innocent III) called for a new Crusade. So far- the first three ran similar to the Evander Holyfield Riddick Bowe fights in the 90s (Bowe is the Christians and Holyfield is the Muslims)- Bowe takes the first, Holyfield has a remarkable comeback in the rematch, and Bowe took the third. Still, it was way less impressive than the first win.

The 4th Crusade would follow the Bowe/Holyfield model if Riddick Bowe, instead of fighting Holyfield for the 4th time, decided to start beating up his cousin over an unrelated issue.

The Pope and Riddick Bowe… er, the Christians, would go to the Holy Land again, but this time via Egypt. So they needed ships. The Venetians offered to help build the ships, but they also couldn’t pay the Venetians.

But in Constantinople, one of the guys called Alexius’ overthrows another Alexius to be the “Emperor Alexius” and asks the Crusaders to straighten out Constantinople and put him back in charge. This Alexius says, “not only will I pay you, and then you can pay the Venetians for the boats- but I will also reconcile Eastern and Western churches.”

Despite objections and counter objections, the Crusaders went to Constantinople- overthrew it- and then took it over as their own Latin Crusader state! The Byzantines would get it back eventually, but its weakened state led to the fall of Constantinople for good in 1453.

So- now to the almost-present. The Papacy of Pope John Paul II was marked by his travel- no pope had ever traveled as much or to as many foreign destinations to meet with non-Catholic dignitaries. And part of his world tour was a kind of apology tour. He apologized for how Christians treated Jews, treated Muslims, and indeed how the Catholic Church had treated its own.

And Pope John Paul made a formal apology to the Orthodox Church and the Patriarch Bartholomew I for the 4th Crusade. On this the 14th of April in 2004- the 800th anniversary of the siege of Constantinople by Latin Christian troops- the Byzantine Patriarch accepted the apology on behalf of the Eastern Church. Bartholomew responded

“[We] receive with gratitude and respect your cordial gesture for the tragic events of the Fourth Crusade. It is a fact that a crime was committed here in the city 800 years ago…The spirit of reconciliation of the resurrection … incites us toward reconciliation of our churches.”

The late 20th and early 21st centuries were heady days for plans to reconcile- from Catholics and Lutherans to Catholics and the Orthodox and many in between, the spirit of cooperation and consolidation was blowing. And while things seem to have taken a turn to the tribal and isolated- may true unity find the church. Today we remember a remarkable season of apology and forgiveness between East and West.

The Last Word for today comes for this Maundy Thursday:

Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me."

Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!"

Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you."

For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason, he said, "Not all of you are clean."

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you?

You call me Teacher and Lord--and you are right, for that is what I am.

So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.

For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 14th of April 2022, brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by the Riddick Bowe to my Buster Douglas. He is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by who, if you don’t know about the Tyson Holyfield fight, I could give you an earful… Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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