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#13 - JRL 7172
Russian Patriarch Expects Rome To Help Overcome Differences With Orthodox Church
Moscow, 6 May: Patriarch of the Russian

Orthodox Church Aleksiy II expects the Pope to take practical steps to resolve the problems between the Church and the Vatican.

"Our Church does not regard the current, serious problems in the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue as insurmountable. However, their solution requires specific steps from the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church, demonstrating its good will and sincere interest in healing the existing differences," the patriarch said in an interview published by the weekly Itogi.

He urged the Pope "to follow the principles of mutual respect, consideration of each others' interests and determination to resolve arising problems through a brotherly dialogue in relations between the churches". He lamented that this approach "does not find understanding in the leadership of the Vatican".

The patriarch reminded readers that two problems obstruct the improvement of relations: the proselytism of the Catholic Church in Russia and the persecution of Orthodox Christians by Greek Catholics in Western Ukraine.

"While denouncing the impermissible practice in relations between sister churches of seeking souls and winning over the flock, Catholic clergymen conduct active and purposeful missionary work in a country with a Christian tradition of over one thousand years, and its own Christian church," the patriarch said.

On the situation in Ukraine, he said three Orthodox dioceses - Lviv, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk - have been virtually destroyed there. However, in response to the deep concern of the Russian Orthodox Church over developments in western Ukraine, "the leadership of the Greek Catholic Church has come up with the idea of raising its status to the level of a patriarchate and getting a seat directly in Kiev to start spreading its influence in the traditionally Orthodox territories of central and eastern Ukraine", he noted.

The patriarch was also concerned about the actions of Catholics in Russia, which a year ago was declared a diocese of the Vatican. According to Aleksiy II, "Russia physically does not have so many Catholics as to radically raise the standard of Catholic representation".

"There can be only one explanation for these steps: the clerical and administrative structures of the Vatican have been founded and imposed here for the sake of growth," the patriarch said.

He noted that people belonging to the Orthodox Church by baptism, faith, upbringing, culture, outlook and tradition are becoming objects of Catholic expansion, and the Russian Orthodox Church has no right to ignore its pastoral responsibility for their future.

"One can only regret that the leadership of the Vatican short-sightedly sacrifices the future of the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue and joint care for Christian values in the face of the world today to its narrow, pragmatic and fleeting interests," the patriarch concluded.

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