14 March 2013, 14:35
Russian senators hope gap between Vatican and Orthodox Church will narrow under new pope (updated)
Moscow, March 14, Interfax - Members of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of Russia's parliament, believe that newly elected Pope Francis, formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, will center his efforts on implementing moderate reforms and enhancing the authority of the Roman Catholic Church among the faithful.
Valery Shnyakin, deputy chairman of the Federation Council Foreign Affairs Committee, told Interfax on Thursday that the election of Jesuit Cardinal Bergoglio, who is of Italian descent, but was born in and lived in Argentina, is symbolic in many ways.
"It is symbolic that a representative of Latin America, where the absolute majority of the population is Catholic, has been selected to lead the Catholic Church. It shows that this region will be in the spotlight for the new pontiff," he said.
The name taken by the new pope is equally symbolic, Shnyakin said.
"Francis of Assisi is one of the saints held in high esteem both by the Catholics and the Christians in general. As the legend goes, St. Francis of Assisi performed scores of miracles, healing the blind, resurrecting the dead and treating people suffering from leprosy. But he is best known for his vow of poverty and transforming the idea of poverty into a positive lifestyle ideal in accordance with Jesus the Christ's testament," the Russian senator said.
The Catholic Church could undergo reforms under the new pope, he said.
"I mean moderate reforms based on the new pontiff's life principles, and he will center his key efforts on bolstering the authority of the Church, which today is in crisis due to multiple financial scandals and allegations of child sex abuse crimes committed by Catholic priests," Shnyakin said.
Hopefully, the gap separating the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church will narrow under the new pontiff, he said.
"We would like this to happen because both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church face similar threats. Morality is on the decline in society," Shnyakin said.
Another Russian senator, Sergey Shcheblygin, has suggested that the new pontiff will pursue a policy based on the traditional Christian views and ideas of morality that he shares.
"As it elected a new pope, the conclave displayed great responsibility and chose a person who will counter all threats facing the foundations of our civilization as the next pontiff," Shcheblygin said.
The newly elected pope has always been opposed to the destruction of traditional family values and has been against same-sex marriages and abortions, thinking that every woman must give birth to her child in any situation, the senator said.
"Judging by these reports, the pope has been leading an ascetic life, which demonstrates his human qualities and will serve as an example for the entire clergy and the faithful," he said.
It is important for the new pontiff to reaffirm the Catholic Church's commitment to genuine Christian values, as well as his objection to postmodernism principles in this institution's transformation, Shcheblygin said.
Addressing a possible meeting of the new pope and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, the senator said he would like these two churches to form a united front in defending traditional values.