BEIRUT, Lebanon, NOV. 17, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The head of the Russian Orthodox Church met Tuesday with the Maronite Catholic patriarch of Antioch and other Eastern Catholic leaders who were in Lebanon for their assembly, which focused on the theme of Christians in the Middle East.
The historic meeting gave Maronite Patriarch Béchara Boutros Raï a chance to note with Russian Patriarch Kirill the need for a united effort in assisting Christians in the Holy Land.
"We feel today a great need to collaborate with Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Churches," the Maronite patriarch affirmed. "We would like to propose to Your Holiness the possibilities of collaboration with the Russian Church in order to safeguard the Christian presence in the countries of the Middle East, and to preserve those Christians from emigrating.
"Their presence must remain effective in their societies, as it was all along the history of this presence, since the time of Christ, the apostles and the first Christians, as 'the leaven in the dough.'"
For his part, Patriarch Kirill noted the difficult theological issues facing Orthodox-Catholic dialogue, and affirmed his conviction that dialogue is not the only channel for cooperation.
Patriarch Kirill believes that common work for the sake of upholding Christian values in the modern world is equally important, a statement from the patriarchate noted.
"The problem of Christianophobia is very acute today; common efforts of Christians of different confessions are essential to hold out against this dangerous phenomenon," Kirill said.
He invited the Maronite patriarch to visit Moscow at the end of the month for an international conference on this problem, or for a visit at a later date.