A Thaw in Catholic-Russian Orthodox Ties?

Patriarchate Welcomes Archbishop´s Words

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MOSCOW, MAR. 23, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Relations between Catholics and Russian Orthodox may be thawing, even though the Moscow patriarch has expressed his opposition to a possible visit by John Paul II.

In an interview with Interfax agency, Catholic Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Moscow acknowledged that at the beginning of the 1990s, there were incidents of violence in three Ukrainian dioceses between Orthodox and Greek-Catholics. The latter were trying to recover the churches taken from them by Stalin´s order, after the country was annexed to the Soviet Union.

Archbishop Kondrusiewicz emphasized that “Christians must solve all problems, including those relating to property, through negotiation. Since the time of Christ, the violent method has never been approved by the Church.”

The archbishop said he believes a meeting between John Paul II and Orthodox Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow “would help to resolve many of these painful questions” and “the best thing for all is that we sit down as soon as possible at the negotiating table.”

Archbishop Kondrusiewicz rejected the accusation of “proselytism,” leveled against Catholics by the Moscow Patriarchate. “Contrary to what is said, we do not attract Russians by promising them humanitarian aid.” He added: “If there are persons who come to us and say they want to be Catholics, we cannot reject them just because they are Russians.”

The Moscow Patriarchate reacted in an interview on radio Ekho Moskvy with Metropolitan Archbishop Kiril, member of the Sacred Synod, and head of the patriarch´s foreign affairs section.

Archbishop Kiril said that the Orthodox Church “welcomes” (“privetstvujet”) the words of Archbishop Kondrusiewicz on the violence, which involved Greek-Catholics in western Ukraine, because it is “the first declaration of this kind.”

However, the Orthodox archbishop stressed that the conflict in western Ukraine between Christians of the two confessions is “a challenge for the whole of European civilization.” At the same time, the archbishop believes that the situation of the Orthodox in the region is “a violation of the rights of man and of religious liberty.”

Metropolitan Archbishop Kiril did not deny the possibility of a meeting between the Pope and Moscow´s Orthodox patriarch. He added, however, “It must be a truly historic event, and not just a protocol meeting.”

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