Yes, there really is a Saint Nicholas. He was a fourth century Bishop in Myra, in Asia
Minor. And he really was famous for his gift giving and his concern for the poor and for children. His feast day is this week, on December 6.
In the Middle Ages some enterprising citizens of the Italian city of Bari stole his remains and built a cathedral in his honor in Bari. Because of the importance of Saint Nicholas to both Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Church, the cathedral is one of the few places in the world where Catholic and Orthodox minister under the same roof. Pilgrims of both denominations are welcome there.
When the Charismatic renewal swept through the Catholic Church, one of the leaders in Bari, Matteo Calisi, wondered if the tolerance expressed at the Saint Nicholas Cathedral could grow into real reconciliation. He and Italian Evangelical pastor Giovanni Traettino reached across the divide and began a movement which has brought Catholics and Evangelicals together throughout Italy. Over the years the reconciliation movement has reached out from Bari to Evangelicals in North and South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. In addition, the Orthodox and Messianic Jewish churches have also become involved.
One of Calisi’s major impacts was in Buenos Aires, where Cardinal Bergoglio opened the Catholic Church to reconciliation with the Protestant leaders. We now know Cardinal Bergoglio as Pope Francis, and he has continued his historic outreach to other Christian traditions (See our Blog of 3/5/14 “Pope’s Unity Message Goes Viral”). Just last week Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew I, head of the Eastern Orthodox Church, met to strengthen ties between Catholics and Orthodox Christians, echoing the message of the Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Bari.
The reconciliation movement born in Bari seeks to bring Christians into genuine unity in our diversity. God realizes that we have different practices and beliefs, and we’re told to tolerate our brothers (see Ro14:1-4 and Ro 15:1-7). Our real unity is through Christ, for if we are each in Christ then we are also united in Christ. (see John 17:20-23).
So let us all join Christ in his prayer that we may be brought into complete unity (John
And we need to thank Him for the gift of the reconciliation movement which was started in honor of Saint Nicholas.