Putin Wants Christian Unity, Says Russian Envoy

Problems for Catholic Priests Reportedly Being Resolved There

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ROME, MARCH 18, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Vladimir Putin’s representative to the Vatican said his government is seeking unity among Christians, and promised it will not create problems for Catholic priests working in Russia.

Vitaly Litvin, the Russian Federation’s ambassador to the Holy See, announced this in an interview published on the Web page www.korazym.org.

The Russian ambassador said he believes that the recent visit of Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was positive, as it facilitated agreement on a number of points.

Specifically, Litvin mentions «the creation of a bilateral mixed group for the solution of problems between the two Churches,» Catholic and Orthodox. He also cites «an agreement to exchange professors of seminaries and academies» and «an exchange of theological points of view which will take place in the near future.»

«It can be said that a whole program has been thought-out for the development of interreligious dialogue,» Litvin says.

At their Feb. 22 meeting, Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II and Cardinal Kasper discussed issues related to the missionary activity of the Catholic Church, and to the Greek-Catholic Church’s request to create a patriarchate in Ukraine, according to the ambassador.

According to «the view of the Moscow Patriarchate, as well as that of other Orthodox Churches, a patriarchate should not be created on territory in which there is already one in existence,» Litvin said.

Speaking of Putin’s intentions, the ambassador confirmed that the Russian president «wants unity among Christians,» as well as «his country’s involvement in the European reality.»

The ambassador mentioned «a statement of the Patriarchate of Moscow on the need to take into account the Christian roots in the European Constitutional Treaty, which is being debated. In this connection, the position of the Russian Orthodox Church coincides with that of the Catholic Church and the actions of both Churches can be carried out in this area.»

For Putin, the «unity of Christians is connected strictly to the religious aspect, but has a wider view,» Litvin said. «Better knowledge of the East and West is necessary, in a wider sense, which also contributes to favor the unity of Christians.»

«I am referring to daily life, to culture, to language, to the common historical past as it is Christian,» the ambassador continued.

Regarding the problem of visas for Catholic priests — some of them expelled by the Russian authorities — the ambassador said: «At present there is no problem of visas for Catholic priests in the Russian territory. What is more, I should say that several Catholic priests already have a residence permit to carry out their pastoral ministry on Russian territory. This shows that greater attention is being given to their pastoral activity.»

«Some problems remain, but they are bureaucratic and administrative, and do not affect Catholics alone but also Muslims and foreigners — in a word, all,» the diplomat said. «But administrative problems can be resolved.»

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