Moscow Patriarchate Lays Down Conditions for Papal Visit

Catholics Must Cease «Proselytizing,» Kirill Says

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MOSCOW, JAN. 25, 2002 ( Dialogue with the Vatican and a papal visit are possible if the Catholic clergy ceases to proselytize in Russia, a key member of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow said.

A Russian Catholic Church has «no future,» insisted Orthodox Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk, who heads the patriarchate´s Foreign Relations department.

The metropolitan made his statements the day after the meeting of religious leaders in Assisi convoked by John Paul II, at which Patriarch Alexy II was represented by his vicar.

The Russian Orthodox Church resents the rebirth of Catholic communities since the fall of Communism. The Stalin regime forced Eastern-rite Catholics to enter the Orthodox Church. Many bishops, priests and laymen were martyred or imprisoned for opposing this imposition.

«We propose cooperation with the Catholic Church,» Metropolitan Kirill said in an interview with Agence France-Presse. «We are convinced that a Russian Catholic Church is something with no future or prospects.»

«It is necessary that we pass from proselytism to bilateral and multilateral cooperation,» he contended.

At the same time, Metropolitan Kirill suggested that Catholics and Orthodox participate together in the dialogue with European institutions in Brussels.

The metropolitan insisted that the work of Catholic missionaries on Russian soil «is not correct.»

«There is no need to profess the Catholic faith here, but to work with the Orthodox Church to reinforce Christian values,» he said.

Metropolitan Kirill deplored the fact that John Paul II visited Ukraine last June, despite Alexy II´s opposition. Although the papal visit «was not a catastrophe,» Kirill said, it has not «contributed anything to Catholic-Orthodox relations.»

The Bishop of Rome should only travel to Russia or meet with Alexy II when pending problems are resolved, the metropolitan continued.

In the past, representatives of the Vatican and of the Catholic Church in Russia have expressed their willingness to resolve these problems. However, they explained that contacts and dialogue first must be established, which is precisely what the patriarchate refuses to undertake.

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