03/28/2008, 00.00
RUSSIA

Moscow Patriarchate to “monitor” Catholic orphanages

D. Dudochkin, A. Pirogov
The decision comes at the end of a meeting by a joint working group on problems between the two Churches. The Patriarchate wants to keep an eye on Orthodox children who live in Catholic institutions. This however has been the rule for years. Once again silence prevails on other, more important issues.

Vladimir (AsiaNews) – The Russian Orthodox Church has decided that it will closely and constantly monitor the activities of Catholic social organisations, especially orphanages. The decision was taken at a meeting of a joint working group on problems between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic Churches that was held in the city of Vladimir, east of Moscow.

“The working group is ready to do such monitoring,” said working group Co-Chairman Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin. It will “try to work out a common vision of ways that could make Orthodox-Catholic interrelation [. . .] more systematic.”

For Archpriest Chaplin, who is also Vice Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations at the Moscow Patriarchate, this means that Orthodox children in Catholic orphanages and other Catholic institutions will obligatorily receive spiritual assistance and services from Orthodox clergymen.

There are no precise data on the exact number of children in Catholic orphanages, but according to some experts, the number is no more than 200 throughout the entire Russian Federation.

The Orthodox clergy’s request is understandable and reasonable, but the rights and interests of Orthodox children are already protected. Orthodox children in fact are already cared for by Orthodox priests and are free to practice their faith according to the principles of their Church.

One example among many: Father Igor Vyzhanov from the Department for External Church Relations at the Moscow Patriarchate baptised a child in April 2006 inside the St John Bosco Orphanage.

Over the years the approach of the Catholic Church to the education of minors has not changed. None the less, Catholic social activities will be “monitored”.

Like the 19 March meeting between Patriarch Aleksij II and the Mother of God archbishop that was postponed upon request by the Patriarchate, the Vladimir meeting represents another lost opportunity to talk about issues that are “sensitive” in the relationship between the two sister Churches, issues like visas for foreign religious, the return of Church property seized by the Soviet state, or the absence of Catholics from the Inter-faith Council of Russia (whose members include Orthodox, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists.)

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