Russian Orthodox: Time for a Change in Ties With Catholic Church

But Metropolitan Kyrill Says Ecumenism Is at a Dead End

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AACHEN, Germany, SEPT. 9, 2003 ( A representative of the Moscow Patriarchate said that the time has come for a change in the relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.

On Monday, Metropolitan Kyrill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad addressed the meeting «Men and Religions,» organized in Aachen by the Community of Sant’Egidio in collaboration with the local archdiocese. The three-day event, which ended today, attracted 500 religious leaders.

The head of the Foreign Relations Department of the Moscow Patriarchate spoke during a discussion entitled «Catholics and Orthodox: The Challenge of Ecumenism.» Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, also participated in the discussion.

«The time has arrived to change the present difficult situation between the Orthodox Church of Moscow and the Catholic Church,» Metropolitan Kyrill said.

«Moscow is ready to discuss; the issues are on the table,» he said. «Once these difficulties are surmounted, the meeting between the Pope and the patriarch of Moscow will serve to turn definitively the difficult page of the past.»

On this occasion, he avoided the use of the world «proselytism» — a term often used in Orthodox circles to describe the Catholic Church’s activity in former Soviet lands.

Instead, the metropolitan referred to «missionary competition,» and related it to «the ideology of the free market of religions.»

For his part, Cardinal Kasper explained that the significant presence of Catholics, especially those of the Eastern rite, in areas such as Ukraine is not due to «a movement organized by the Vatican,» but rather is a reflection of grass-roots spirituality.

In regard to John Paul II’s possible visit to Russia, the metropolitan said: «His trip to Moscow represents a historic event, which must be properly prepared.» He added: «The Pope’s visits to countries of Orthodox tradition have had a positive meaning.»

Metropolitan Kyrill also said he believes that «ecumenism has met with a dead end.»

The ecumenical movement «has become the hostage of humanist secularism which has entered to a great extent in the churches of the West,» he contended.

«If we want the rebirth of ecumenism, we must change our attitude and put the defense of Christian values in contemporary society at the center of our concerns,» the Russian representative added.

Cardinal Kasper acknowledged: «We can learn much from the East, which can be for us a valid counterweight given the danger of sliding into theological secularism.»

Russian Orthodox and Catholics agree that the European Constitution, now being revised, should mention the continent’s Christian roots.

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