14 March 2013, 16:06
Russian Orthodox Church hopes ties with Catholics will grow stronger under new Pope (updated)
Moscow, March 14, Interfax - A high-ranking representative of the Russian Orthodox Church has welcomed statements earlier made by newly elected Pope Francis announcing his readiness to seek closer relations with the Orthodox Church.
"Pope Francis has declared his spiritual affection to the Orthodox Church and his wish to have closer contacts with it more than once," head of the Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, said at a press briefing in Moscow on Thursday.
Metropolitan Hilarion, who is reckoned to be second in command at the Russian Orthodox Church, said that hopefully "relations [between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches] as allies will develop further and will grow stronger" under the new pontiff.
The conclave's support for Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio came as a surprise to many people because this name was not on the list of possible candidates, he said.
At the same time, the newly elected Pope is a "highly respected clergyman", who lived in Argentina for most of his life, serving the poor and the deprived, the metropolitan said.
The new Pope "himself has always led a very humble life and refused to live in the Episcopal residence," he added.
"Obviously, it is not accidental that he is the first Pope to take the name of Francis in honor of Francis of Assisi, who is certainly held in high esteem by the Roman Catholic Church as the paragon of evangelical humbleness and service to the poor," he said.
"Certainly, serving the poor and the deprived and protecting them are among the priorities for the Christian Churches today, and the Russian Orthodox Church attaches great importance to this mission. We think that it will offer us a broad field for joint work with the Roman Catholic Church," Metropolitan Hilarion said.