05/30/2008, 00.00
RUSSIA – VATICAN

Pope writes Aleksij II who still says no to Ravenna

by A. Pirogov
Cardinal Kasper handed Aleksij II a message in which the Pope expressed his esteem and gratitude to the Russian Patriarch. According to the Vatican the meeting took place in a cordial atmosphere; invariably though the Patriarchate highlighted all the unsolved problems that come between the two Churches like the Uniate Church, Catholic orphanages and the Ravenna Statement.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Appreciation for a “commitment to fostering relations between Catholics and Orthodox” and hope to “undertake together our journey towards full communion in him” are the main points of a letter by the Pope that Card Walter Kasper personally handed yesterday to Aleksij II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia

From 21 to 30 May the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity was on a visit to Russia on the invitation of Metropolitan Kyrill of Smolensk.

In one of the various engagements of the visit, officially devoted to “greater understanding of Russian Orthodox culture,” the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity met the head of the Russian Orthodox Church yesterday. With him he had the opportunity to talk about the new climate of “friendship and brotherhood” that between the two Churches as well as the problems that continue to fuel tensions between them.

For some Russia experts Cardinal Kasper was supposed to meet the Orthodox leader to jumpstart the Joint Orthodox-Catholic Theological Commission but apparently he failed to do so.

“The possibility in principle” of a meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Aleksij II was confirmed, but the Russian Patriarch reiterated that such an event should be thoroughly prepared, and not just be “a photo-op.”

During the talks the two parties dealt with some of their problems like the “expansion of the Uniate Church” in the Ukraine as well as the rearing of children in Catholic-run orphanages in Russia. Similarly both sides expressed concern over the Ravenna incident of October 2007 at the session of the Joint Orthodox-Catholic Theological Commission.

At that time representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate left the meeting’s plenary session because they opposed the presence of delegates from the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church set up in 1996 by the Constantinople Patriarchate in what Moscow considers its own canonical territory.

Patriarch Aleksij did not mince words about what the Statement that came out of the Ravenna meeting.

“The problem is not only that a statement was approved without our participation but the way it was done confers upon Constantinople a status like that of the Vatican for Catholics.”

Anonymous sources noted that for the Russian patriarch “Catholic-Orthodox dialogue cannot move forward without the participation of the largest Orthodox Church.”

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See also
Thaw between Constantinople and Moscow, Aleksij II to attend pan-Orthodox Synod
29/07/2008
Ecumenism “is not an option but a sacred duty,” says Pope
23/11/2007
Cardinal Kasper in Moscow: we want to deepen Orthodox-Catholic dialogue
22/06/2005
Moscow Patriarchate to “monitor” Catholic orphanages
28/03/2008
Bartholomew invited by the pope to participate in the synod of bishops
07/03/2008