Moscow (AsiaNews) - Last fall, the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches "were ready" to work on a meeting between the pope and the patriarch of Moscow, but events in Ukraine, with the Greek-Catholic Church taking the lead in the protests that led to the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych, "have thrown us much back," Metropolitan Hilarion told the National Catholic Register.
In the interview with the Catholic magazine, Hilarion, who heads the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, reiterated the view that the so-called 'Uniate' Church remains a "major obstacle" to ecumenical dialogue.
"Already, last autumn, it seemed to me that the sides were ready to begin preparing it," Hilarion said. However, "events in Ukraine have thrown us much back, first of all, because of the actions of the Greek Catholics, who are seen by the Roman Catholic Church as a 'bridge' between East and West, whereas we see them as a serious obstacle to dialogue between Orthodoxy and Catholicism."
In late March, the Patriarchate's "foreign minister" denounced the Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine for "meddling" in politics during the country's crisis.
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv visited the United States along with the leader of the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which Moscow deems "schismatic".
For Hilarion, the "Greek Catholics have taken one side, entering into active cooperation with the Orthodox schismatic groups, [. . .] calling [on] the American authorities to interfere in the situation and to put Ukraine in order."
Indeed, "The Greek Catholics have [. . .] launched a crusade against Orthodoxy," he told the Catholic Register. "It is no secret that the 'Uniatism' was and is a special project of the Roman Catholic Church, aimed to convert the Orthodox to Catholicism.
Still, Hilarion said that the long-awaited face-to-face meeting with the patriarch was still possible. In fact, "I do not see why it could not be arranged under Pope Francis".
"Today," he explained, "there is a real interest that both sides show in the fruitful development of bilateral dialogue" and co-operation on social issues like the family, the demographic crisis, bioethics and euthanasia. (N.A.)