Moscow (AsiaNews) – Tomorrows meeting between the Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Pope will be “a meeting between heads of state and has no bearing whatsoever on relations between the Catholic Church and Russian Orthodox Church”. That is how the Moscow Patriarchate views the first meeting between Putin and Benedict XVI, whose pontificate has seen significant developments in relations between the two sister Churches. This according to statements given Asianews by Fr Igor Vyzhanov – Secretary for Inter – Christian affairs of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchates department for external relations.
Fr. Vyzhanov refers that “the delegation accompanying the President on his visit to the Vatican comprises politicians and diplomats” he further underlines: “During Putins trip to Italy there is no special envoy”. The Patriarchate official “supposes” that the two leaders will speak of “international questions, probably concerns ‘pertaining to dialogue between civilizations and the role of moral values in Europe and the world; as State representatives, one a State – Church, it’s clear that there discussions will have some impact on their respective nations, but we still cannot say what how”.
Vatican representatives in Russia, however have a different reading on the March 13th meeting. In a recent interview with the Italian daily “Avvenire” Msgr. Antonio Mennini, nuncio to the Federation, declared that “the meeting between Benedict XVI and Putin is a significant event that cannot fail to have ecumenical repercussions”. “From this perspective it seems clear to me that the priority will be….. progress in dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox in which the Russian authorities are also interested”.
For his part the Russian Orthodox bishop of Vienna Austria Hilarion (Alfeeev) recently spoke to Interfax news agency of “an encounter between two Christians, with elevated possibilities”. And speaking to AsiaNews, though reaffirming that it is “a state visit”, Hilarion did not exclude the presence of Metropolitan Kirill, on the presidential visit to Italy. Usually the President’s official trips, “above all if linked to religious or Church affairs”, include members of the Patriarchate, he said.