Moscow (AsiaNews) - For Catholics and Orthodox, yesterday's meeting in the Vatican between Pope Francis and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is in Italy on a working visit, was primarily political in nature. In Moscow, the Orthodox Patriarchate expressed hope that it would contribute to solving international problems. For the Apostolic Nunciature in the Russian Federation, the meeting opens new opportunities for cooperation between the two states, particularly on urgent issues like the crisis in Syria and the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.
"The meeting was sort of 'a comparison of positions' for the purpose of further cooperation between the Russian state and the Church in social and cultural affairs aimed at preserving fundamental moral issues, to protect life and to show respect for the dignity of a person and a family," said Archpriest Dimitry Sizonenko, secretary of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations for Inter-Christian Relations.
By the same token, the Patriarchate spokesman stressed "the outstanding success" of Russian diplomats in promoting the Syrian peace process, which is consistent with the aspirations of the Russian Orthodox Church and allows it to start a more active discussion of the problem of persecution and discrimination against Christians on the floors of international organisations like the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Still, despite its lower profile in the development of the Russia-Holy See partnership on the aforementioned issues, the Patriarchate remains on the same wavelength with the Kremlin whilst aiming to achieve the same global reach as the Vatican, this according to Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
After Pope Francis' first letter on Syria to the Kremlin leader before the G20 summit in September, Patriarch Kirill wrote to Barack Obama, urging him to shelve plans for an attack against the regime of Bashar al-Assad and focus instead on diplomatic means to end the Syrian conflict.
"Putin has agreed in principle to strengthen the role of the Russian Orthodox Church in the world, a role that he is generally promoting in Russia, but he and the Patriarch often have different priorities and different interests," Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote. "For Putin, political realities are more important than solving problems between the two Churches."
In fact, in the meeting with the Holy Father, the Russian leader "brought the greetings of Patriarch Kirill", Vatican spokesman Rev Federico Lombardi said, but ecumenical issues weren't discussed.
"Problems in the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue and the question of a meeting of the [Church] leaders are internal affairs of the Churches," Archpriest Dimitry Sizonenko explained. However, Putin's visit was part of the active development of constructive relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Holy See. Mgr Ivan Jurkovič, apostolic nuncio to Russia, agrees.
As part of this, the Archbishop of Milan Card Angelo Scola recently met Kirill met, whilst Metropolitan Hilarion, the Russian Orthodox Church's "foreign minister" was received by Pope Francis in Rome.
More meetings of this kind will follow in the coming weeks. Card Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, are expected in Russia.
The more frequently meetings at the level of states and Churches take place, the better, said Giovanna Parravicini, cultural attaché at the Apostolic Nunciature in Russia, especially when issues like peace in Syria and the persecution of the Christian minority in this country are at stake.
Speaking to Interfax, Parravicini said that exchanges of opinions on this or that international topic would give a fresh impetus to cooperation between the two states and could offer wide opportunities to resolve the problems the world faces today.