A Climate of Rapprochement between Moscow and Rome
Rapprochement between Rome and Moscow
A climate of rapprochement between Moscow and Rome has been manifest for some time now. Evidence of it can be found in recent statements by the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Cyril I, who has praised Benedict XVI for his “moral values”. The attitude of the present pope “gives us reason to remain optimistic”, he informed the Ukrainian media, according to a communiqué from the Moscow Patriarchate dated July 19. “Complete agreement between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church on many questions of public interest or of a moral nature allow us to work together to defend Christian values, particularly within international organizations,” he added.
At the same time, Cyril I said that he is “concerned” about the increasingly liberal trends within the Catholic Church since the second half of the twentieth century. The Russian religious leader even deplored the fact that Benedict XVI is being criticized more and more by liberal theologians and the media in Western countries.
Cardinal Bertone will travel to Russia
This surprising statement by the Russian Patriarch to the media was made several days before the official announcement of the trip to Russia in early 2011 by the Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. The objective will be to “strengthen ties with the Catholic community” but also to “pursue dialogue with the civil authorities and the Moscow Patriarchate”, according to the remarks quoted by the news agency Imedia. The “Number Two” man at the Holy See underscored the common hope of Orthodox and Catholics to “work together so that Europe, as John Paul II used to say, might breathe with both lungs”. Benedict XVI, too, repeated that expression in his address on the occasion of a concert sponsored by the Patriarch of Moscow in honor of the fifth anniversary of his pontificate, in May 2010.
The Holy See and Russia established complete diplomatic relations in December 2009, which confirmed the warming trend in their relations since the death of the Polish pope, John Paul II, and the election of Benedict XVI. Thus the idea of a meeting between the Supreme Pontiff and the Patriarch of Moscow, which only a few years ago was incongruous, is being taken more and more seriously.
The “collaboration” of Benedict XVI
This climate of trust was evident also in the words of the Apostolic Nuncio at the presentation of diplomatic credentials to the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs. On July 15 Bishop Antonio Mennini did not hesitate to pledge the “collaboration” of Benedict XVI for the purpose of “further strengthening relations with the government, but also for the moral and spiritual growth of the Russian population”. In remarks reported on July 27 by Vatican Radio, Bishop Mennini went on to recall that the Holy See and the Russian Federation had “often been in agreement at various international forums about safeguarding moral values and promoting peace”.
“Europe needs Orthodox churches”
For Cardinal Walter Kasper, the rapprochement is inevitable, since “the full integration of Eastern and Western Europe is impossible without ecumenical dialogue and the contribution of the Orthodox Churches of Eastern Europe.” In an interview granted to ENInews, in connection with the assembly of the Lutheran World Federation held in Stuttgart (Germany) from July 20 to 27, the former president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity emphasized that the dialogue with the Orthodox Churches was a priority for the two popes under whom he served, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. “These two popes were truly in favor of ecumenical dialogue, particularly the dialogue with the Orthodox Churches,” he said. The German prelate acknowledged that the worst moment for him had been at the start of his commission as head of the Council for Promoting Christian Unity, following a meeting with the Orthodox Churches in Baltimore (USA) in 2000. That meeting in Baltimore had ended in an impasse over the question of the Greek-Catholic communities in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The presence in Ukraine of Eastern-rite Christians faithful to Rome, [disparagingly called] “Uniates”, is the main obstacle to ecumenical dialogue between Rome and Moscow. (Sources : Radio Vatican/apic/imedia/kna/ENI – DICI no. 220 dated August 7, 2010