Russian Orthodox Official Hopeful for a Prompt Beatification

A Great Pope, Bishop Hilarion Says of John Paul II

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VIENNA, Austria, APRIL 5, 2005 ( At least one Russian Orthodox Church official thinks John Paul II will soon be beatified and canonized by the Catholic Church.

Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Vienna and Austria, representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to the European Institutions, delivered to ZENIT a comment on the late Pope.

«He was a great Pope, perhaps one of the greatest in the entire history of the Roman Catholic Church,» Bishop Hilarion wrote. «There is no doubt that he will soon be beatified and canonized by the Church to which he dedicated his entire life.»

«He was the most influential religious leader of modernity, and he made an impact on the entire human civilization,» he added. «Indeed, his influence went far beyond the Roman Catholic Church, which he headed for more than a quarter of a century.

«His message was heard and appreciated by millions of people all over the world, not only Catholics, but also Orthodox, Protestants, Anglicans, Jews, Muslims, people of other faiths and, what is perhaps even more remarkable, by people of no faith.»

Bishop Hilarion continued: «In the time when secular politicians in most Western countries work hard to expel religion from the public sphere, to reduce it to the realm of private devotion, to ban it from schools, universities and from the mass media, John Paul II was a public figure of such magnitude that his every voyage was widely covered and his every pronouncement was commented by the mass media worldwide.» «He was an ‘orthodox’ Pope in the sense of preserving traditional attitude of his Church to dogma and morality,» the Russian Orthodox stated. «His stand on moral issues, such as marriage and family, abortion, contraception, euthanasia and many others, very often evoked criticism on the part of those who wanted traditional values to be replaced by secular ones, and who attempted to oppose humanism to religion.

«By being traditional, however, the Pope was by no means less humane, being able to develop a universal humanism based on spiritual values as opposed to the atheist version of humanism.»

«For many years he contested atheism in his own country, Poland, and he played part in the collapse of atheist totalitarian regimes in Eastern Europe, but he also contributed enormously to the rediscovery of faith by many of those who lost it because of liberalism and relativism prevailing in democratic Western societies.»

Bishop Hilarion further commented: «His life coincided with enormous geopolitical changes which altered forever the face of Europe. These changes, unfortunately, led not only to the introduction of religious freedom in those Eastern European countries where it had previously been violated, but also to the aggravation of the interconfessional situation in some regions of Eastern Europe.

«A number of problems arose, in particular, between the Orthodox and the Catholics in Russia and Ukraine, which prevented the leaders of the Orthodox Church in both countries from meeting with the Pope. These problems still await their solution.

«I met with the Pope twice, on both occasions delivering to him a message from the patriarch of Moscow, Alexy II. On January 21, 2002, which was our second and last meeting, I was entrusted with a somewhat delicate mission of explaining to the Pope the conditions on which his meeting with the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church would have been possible.»

«He was, of course, well aware of these conditions, which had never been made a secret. Among them were an explicit rejection of all forms of proselytism on the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate, and the recognition of the fact that ‘Uniatism’ could no longer be considered as a way towards Christian unity.

«It is to be hoped that these principles will be reflected in a common declaration of the primates of the Roman Catholic and the Russian Orthodox Churches, once a meeting between them does take place. Such a meeting may pave the way to a new page in the relations between these two traditional Churches, whose common and united testimony to the world would be so crucial and so timely.»

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