MOSCOW, JAN. 27, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church is thanking a Vatican representative for his work in improving Orthodox-Catholic relations.
Patriarch Kirill expressed his gratitude as he bid farewell to Archbishop Antonio Mennini, who was named last month the apostolic nuncio to Great Britain. The archbishop served in Russia since Pope John Paul II sent him there in 2002.
The Russian Interfax agency reported that Kirill and the archbishop said their farewells at a meeting in Moscow. Patriarch Kirill emphasized the archbishop’s “personal contribution in settling difficult problems in relations between our Churches.”
“With God’s mercy,” he added, “these problems are being positively settled, which changes the climate of the bilateral relations for the better.”
This, the patriarch asserted, “is, in many respects, your achievement as a plenipotentiary representative of the Holy See.”
Archbishop Mennini also expressed his gratitude to the patriarch for his support over the years.
“I’ve been glad to work for the welfare of our Churches, but this work would have been much more complicated without your support, friendly attitude and Christian love,” the nuncio affirmed.
Though in Russia as the papal representative since 2002, Archbishop Mennini did not have the title of nuncio until last year, with the exchange of ambassadors between the Vatican and the Russian Federation.
The Holy See and Russia had had limited diplomatic relations since 1990, but they had not been formalized until President Dimitri Medvedev visited Benedict XVI at the Vatican on Dec. 3, 2009.
Nevertheless, since the archbishop’s first days in Russia, he worked to improve relations between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Among his first tasks was addressing the difficulties that arose with the federal authorities after the expulsion of Polish-born Bishop Jerzy Mazur — then bishop of St. Joseph in Irkutsk, Eastern Siberia, and today bishop of Elk, Poland — and five Catholic priests.
As well, Archbishop Mennini witnessed one of the most important gestures of rapprochement between Catholics and Russian Orthodox: the devolution of the Icon of the Kazan Mother of God on Aug. 25, 2004. He has also seen important bilateral meetings and joint cultural and theological initiatives between Orthodox and Catholics.
Kirill’s predecessor, Alexy II, honored Archbishop Mennini on Sept. 3, 2007, with the Order of the Holy Prince Daniel of Moscow award, stating that “from the beginning of your service as envoy of the Vatican to Russia you have earned the reputation of a tireless promoter of good relations between the two states and between our Churches.”