Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Russian Orthodox Church has warmly welcomed the election of Card. Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis, and hope for a continuation of the policies of Pope Benedict XVI in the development of relations between Catholics and Orthodox. "The new Pope - said the head of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations, Archpriest Dimitry Sizonenko - is known for his conservative positions and his reign will be characterized by the strengthening of faith." "The fact that he took the name Francis - added Sizonenko, also secretary for inter-Christian relations - confirms his conception of evangelization primarily as a service to the poor, such as protection of their dignity." The priest called for a continuation of "positive" momentum of ecumenical dialogue even if he was keen to stress that so far Card. Bergoglio "has not been a directly active participant in the relations between Orthodox and Catholics" and as a result it is "difficult to make any predictions" about it. "In Argentina he was ordinary for the Catholics of the Eastern rite: this gives us hope that relations between Catholics and Orthodox will be further developed," he recalled. Sizonenko then called Pope Francis' asking for people to pray for him an act of "great charisma and humility".
For his part, the proto-deacon Andrei Kuraev, professor at the Academy of Moscow and influential spiritual leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, wrote on his blog that, starting from the name chosen by the new Pope, he expects "a strong jolt to the Catholic Church, that will force them to convert to the Church of the poor ".
For the director of Radio Kommersant, Konstrantin Eggert, a Christian and influential commentator on Church affairs, "Russia will be far from the interests of the new Pope, which will focus on the mission in the Third World and his relations with Moscow will not be so important." However, he added, it cannot be excluded that he "will help to bring the two Churches closer together and facilitate the meeting of their leaders."
The reaction of the Catholic community in the Russian Federation was of "joy and emotion", as he the secretary of the local Bishops' Conference, Father Igor Kovalevsky told Interfax-Religion. "The first feeling is one of joy - he said - the choice of a Latin American for Pope is clear testimony to the universality of the Catholic Church, which is present in all continents and open to all cultures." Father Kovalevsky then commented as a positive factor that this is the first non-European pope and from the so-called New World. According to him, the Catholic community has high hopes for the new Pope to develop "dialogue between the Church and contemporary culture and the proclamation of the Gospel in the modern world."