Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, participated in an ecumenical meeting at the Pius XI Hall of St. Callistus, organized jointly by the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Pontifical Council for the Family, on the theme “Orthodox and Catholics Together for the Family.” He is presently in Rome for several days.
Metropolitan Hilarion spoke with ZENIT on his visit Tuesday with Pope Francis and the current ecumenical dialogue taking place between the two Churches.
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ZENIT: How was your meeting with Pope Francis?
Metropolitan Hilarion: The meeting went very well. We spoke for one hour. We were able to discuss a vast number of questions.
We spoke of the bilateral dialogue between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, but also about the Orthodox dialogue in which all the Orthodox Churches are taking part.
ZENIT: As well as the Christian roots of the East and West?
Metropolitan Hilarion: We spoke of Christians in those countries where they are persecuted and threatened, and of the need to work together to help persecuted Christians. We also spoke of Christian values that we are called to defend, also the value of the family on which we organized this congress.
ZENIT: What are the ecumenical prospects between the two Churches?
Metropolitan Hilarion: I think that relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church are developing in the right way, in common positions that concern moral questions. We will develop our relations in the fields in which we can witness our common Christian patrimony.
ZENIT: The importance of prayer between Christians to support Christian unity?
Metropolitan Hilarion: The Church is above all a community of people that prays. Without prayer no man can be called Christian. We insert all that worries us in our prayers.
At this point of the interview, several news agencies joined us. A Vatican Radio correspondent asked about the challenges of the family in the Orthodox world, and His Eminence answered:
“They are the same as for the Catholic world,” due “to the influence of the destruction of values that happens under the influence of the modern liberal ideology. They seek to persuade young people that the family, between a man and a woman open to the generation of children, is an obsolete concept.”
He also indicated that, thanks to family ministry, in some parts of Russia today, there are rates of demographic growth similar to those of Bangladesh.
Asked by another agency about the time needed for a meeting between the Pope and Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, he answered:
“We are not yet ready to say when and where this meeting will take place, but we are working on it. In order for it to be a preparation not only from a protocol standpoint; we therefore must elaborate on the content of this meeting.”