Monday, September 21, 2009

Russian Orthodox official’s Vatican trip seen as pinpointing a thaw
By Sophia Kishkovsky

From here via Dr Tighe.

Seen by whom?

For all their talk of ecumenism, somehow I don’t think liberal Protestants really want Catholic reunion, do you?
Moscow, 21 September (ENI) — On a five-day visit to Rome, a Russian Orthodox official in charge of interchurch relations had a meeting with the Pope, and this is being seen as a sign of improved relations between the two churches under Benedict XVI and the new Russian Patriarch Kirill I.

An official Web site of the Moscow Patriarchate has reported that Russian Orthodox Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk met Pope Benedict at Castel Gandolfo, the pontifical summer residence.

Hilarion is chairperson of the external church relations section of the Moscow Patriarchate. He is reported as having told Benedict that the Orthodox and Roman Catholic positions on issues such as family values and euthanasia were identical, and distinct from the views of many Protestant churches.

On 19 September the Russian archbishop took part in a service at the Catacombs of St. Callixtus. According to a report on the Web site of his church, he spoke of the martyrdom of the early Christians in Rome.

“Now, when the Orthodox and Catholic churches are not in Eucharistic communion, and when many Protestant denominations have deviated from the fundamental principles of Christianity, we must understand clearly that division is a sin that tears apart the body of the Church and weakens the strength of Christian witness before the secular world”, Hilarion said.

During his visit, Hilarion also met other Vatican officials including Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and Cardinal Walter Kasper, who heads the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Kasper told Vatican Radio on 17 September, “The situation in Moscow has very much improved. We have overcome the tensions. We are in a new situation.”

Through much of the post-Soviet era, and under Polish-born Pope John Paul II, relations between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican were marked by the flaring of centuries-old tensions over the issue of Uniates, who are Christians concentrated in Ukraine, and who observe the Byzantine rite but are loyal to Rome. The Russian Orthodox Church has in the past also accused the Vatican of proselytising in the former Soviet republic.

Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that Hilarion raised the issue at his meeting with the Pope, according to the report on the patriarchate’s Web site. In addition, Hilarion mentioned another sensitive subject regarding relations with the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Contact between the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople and the Moscow Patriarchate have been tense since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Russian Orthodox Church is the world’s largest Orthodox church, and it objects to Constantinople being compared to Rome. The Russian church says that Constantinople’s primacy is honorary and its jurisdiction does not extend beyond the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which is based in Istanbul.

Still, leaders of the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches have recently spoken increasingly of each other as allies in defending traditional spiritual values in the secular world. This has led to growing speculation that a meeting between Patriarch Kirill I and Pope Benedict could take place in the foreseeable future.

The Russian Orthodox Church reacted negatively both to Pope John Paul II’s desire to visit Russia, and his visits to former Soviet republics.

Signs now point to a meeting between the Pope and the Russian Patriarch on neutral territory. Plans for such a meeting in Austria in 1997 between the late Russian Patriarch Aleksei II and Pope John Paul II fell through at the last moment.

In May 2009, shortly after he succeeded Kirill as chairperson of the external relations department of the Moscow Patriarchate, Archbishop Hilarion told Ecumenical News International, “I think that if you look at relations between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic churches in the historical perspective, taking into account that such a meeting did not take place for ten centuries, then such a meeting is very close, as close as never before. I think it will happen as soon as the conditions for it mature.”

Orthodoxy came to what is now modern-day Russia, through Byzantium, in 988, less than a century before the schism divided the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches in 1054.
John of Ad Orientem:
An interesting report. Much most of what +Hilarion is quoted as saying however, has been said before. He has been an advocate of closer ties with Rome on cultural grounds for many years. This article does not mention any of the substantive theological points which divide us. That said, I think it is fair to say that relations between Rome and Russia are warming for a variety of reasons. I would not be surprised to see some sort of meeting between the Pope and PofM in the next few years. But that’s a far cry from restoring communion which I would be extremely surprised to see in my lifetime.
There’s only one such point but it’s irreconcilable.

Greek Catholics are concentrated only in the south-western corner of the Ukraine. To be honest they used to be in much of the region including Kiev and in Byelorussia but Russian expansion centuries ago squashed that. Their homeland has long been Galicia, Polish until Stalin grabbed it in WWII. Rome doesn’t proselytise in the old Russian empire. More.
Thy birth, O Mother of God, hath brought joy to all the universe; for from thee arose the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, who, having dissolved the curse, hath given his blessing, and having abolished death, hath granted us everlasting life.

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