Moscow (AsiaNews) - While on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where he embraced the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, the Pope also sent a "personal message" to the Russian Orthodox Patriarch, Kirill, saying that "he is willing to meet at any place". This is according to AsiaNews sources in Moscow's Synodal Department for External Relations, who say the message was delivered by Msgr. Massimo Palombella, director of the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir, which performed in Moscow on 27 May, to mark the fifth anniversary of the Patriarch's enthronement.
The Pontiff's words were relayed in private, "in front of very few people" on the margins of the concert held in conjunction with the Synodal Choir of the Moscow Patriarchate. The same sources say that Kirill limited his response to "thanks" for the "precious gift" made to him by "friends in Rome". Several attempts to contact the director of the Sistine Chapel choir for a comment have failed. According to sources in the Catholic community in Moscow, the timing of the message was not random: during the days when he was meeting with Bartholomew - who the Moscow Patriarchate sees as a rival within the Orthodox world - the Argentinian Pope wanted to reiterate his interest in also having good relations with the Russian Orthodox Church.
It is not clear whether the offer was met with appreciation by Moscow. On May 28 , Kirill spoke of a "cooling" in relations with the Vatican, linked to Greek - Ukrainian Catholics involvement in the Maidan Square protests in Kiev and their - in his opinion - "Russia-phobic" positions. The primate has warned that the situation in the former Soviet Republic casts "very sad shadow" over relations between the Patriarchate and the Holy See. According to sources in the Orthodox community, the Patriarch's words "were not addressed directly to the Pope, whose work he continues to appreciate, but in general to those in the Catholic Church who have no interest in ecumenical dialogue".
This position is reflected in recent statements by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations. "There is a part of the Catholic Church that is investing energy, talent and resources to strengthen the interaction between Catholics and Orthodox, while another is doing everything possible to create distrust and enmity", denounced the metropolitan during a June 3 address to a Congress in Minsk.