Holy See-Russian Ties Desirable, Says Vatican

Catholic-Orthodox Tensions Can Be Solved, Declares Prelate

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MOSCOW, OCT. 28, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See and Russia should establish full diplomatic relations, and tensions between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches are not “irresolvable,” says a Vatican representative visiting Moscow.

Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican secretary for relations with states, arrived here Wednesday to meet with government officials and leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Meanwhile in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received today in audience the country’s new representative to the Holy See, Nikolay Sadchikov. There was no presentation of credentials, however, since the Vatican and Russia do not enjoy full diplomatic relations.

The archbishop said the goal of his visit is “to gain a more profound understanding of the position and views of the Russian government on various international problems, as well as to make the Holy See’s own viewpoint known,” reported the Catholic newspaper Svet Evangelja.

Regarding diplomatic relations, the archbishop told the news agency that it “doesn’t correspond to the weight which the Holy See attributes to its relations with the Moscow government, nor in the position which the Holy See — with its 174 apostolic nunciatures and another 20 representatives to international organizations — has in the world.”

“Rather,” he said, “I think both parties should work to progress toward full diplomatic relations.”

Archbishop Lajolo is also visiting Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of the Mother of God in Moscow Archdiocese, “and the lively Catholic community of the city, bringing them the affectionate greetings and a special blessing of the Holy Father.”

Russian too

The Catholics in Russia — numbering about 600,000 people in a country of 144 million — form a “small flock,” said the Vatican representative.

“But it is a ‘small flock’ that is Russian in every sense of the word, with a centuries-old history marked by painful trials that were borne with exemplary courage of faith,” he said.

The archbishop commented in his interview with the Russian paper that, based on the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the small community should be granted “equal dignity” and “equal freedom” alongside the Orthodox Church in Russia.

This move would not seek to uproot the Orthodox Church, he said, but rather give the Russian Catholic community the freedom “to live and bear witness to their own religious faith, specifically characterized by union with the Bishop of Rome and with the universal Church.”

The archbishop also said Catholics should be represented in the Public Chamber and on the Russian Interreligious Council, “in order for them to be fully able to carry out their mission and contribute to the growth of Russian society, of which they are an integral part.”

In another interview granted to the news agency Blagovest-Info, the archbishop also referred to relations with the Orthodox Church, marked by “reciprocal difficulties,” rooted in “a painful inability to create a common language for the examination and resolution of divergences.”

Archbishop Lajolo said: “The Catholic Church in Russia, together with the pontifical representative in Moscow, is always ready to join the Orthodox Church in examining the reasons and causes of differences — and at times of misunderstandings — in order to try and solve them in a supernatural spirit.

“And I am happy to recall that, even in moments of difficulty, the channel of communication between the Holy See and the Patriarchate of Moscow has never been closed.”

Papal trip

Regarding a Papal trip to Russia, the Vatican representative said that “it would constitute an ecumenical event of great significance and importance,” and that “it would have to be prepared with the greatest care.”

“As Cardinal Angelo Sodano revealed some months ago,” continued the archbishop, “such a visit, having a mainly spiritual nature, should provide a reason for joy and hope, not only for Catholics but for all Russia, including other Christian faithful and the followers of other religions.”

Pope John Paul II had long sought to visit Russia, and Benedict XVI has continued his outreach to the Orthodox, saying that unifying all Christians was a “fundamental” priority of his pontificate.

The Holy See and the Soviet Union established “relations of a special nature” in 1990.

Russia maintains a mission in the Vatican, led by an appointed representative.

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