07/03/2006, 00.00
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Despite differences inter-faith summit opens in Moscow in the name of working together

Spiritual leaders from all major world religions have arrived. A high-profile Vatican delegation is also in attendance. For Cardinal Kasper, this is an implicit sign that relations between Catholics and Russian orthodox relations are improving. Metropolitan Kirill agrees.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – The need to work together "despite differences" is what Card Walter Kasper expects to see as the outcome of the World Religious Summit that opened today in Moscow. The cardinal, who is chairman of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, heads the high-profile Vatican delegation attending the summit.

The event, unprecedented for the Orthodox world in terms of scope and number of participants, has attracted more than 200 delegates, including Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Hindu and Muslim leaders, from 44 countries who have arrived in Moscow on the invitation of the Russian Orthodox Church to discuss issues such as terrorism, poverty, racism, human rights, the defence of life, ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, which challenge faith in today's world.

In addition to Cardinal Kasper, the Vatican has sent four other cardinals: Paul Poupard, Roger Etchegaray, Godfried Danneels and Edgar McCarrick.

The Pope and the Dalai Lama will be the major leaders not in attendance.

As the organisers of the event acknowledged, the presence of the Tibetan leader would have caused a rift with the Chinese government. Instead, the director of China's Religious affairs Bureau will be present at the event that is being held at Moscow's Hotel President.

Tensions between the Russian patriarchate and the Holy See have instead held up Pope Benedict XVI's invitation.

In an interview with the Interfax press agency, Cardinal Kasper said none the less that Catholic-Orthodox relations are good. The prelate stressed that "both churches understand that we live in a secular society, and new challenges face us" and "feel that other religions are challenging them in the interreligious dialogue". Kasper explained that the presence of a Vatican delegation at the Moscow summit "is a positive sign, which highlights the improvement of relations".

Metropolitan Kirill, head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, stressed that the "Orthodox and Catholic Churches have the same vision of problems facing world today". Moreover, "our two Churches advocate the same ethical norms. Therefore, we cannot but unite our efforts."

The Moscow summit will end with the release of a document addressed to G8 leaders whose summit is scheduled to take place in mid-July in Saint-Petersburg, Russia.

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