03 December 2007, 12:03
The Moscow Patriarchate believes the status of Catholic dioceses in Russia should be brought down to the level of 2000
Moscow, December 3, Interfax – The Russian Orthodox Church would never recognize the current status of Catholic dioceses in Russia, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Kirill of Smolenk and Kaliningrad stated.
‘We shall never recognize them and will always dispute the presence of ordinary Catholic dioceses in the territory of Russia and consider it a challenge to our common idea of sticking to a territorial principle of Church administration’, the hierarch said at a church and scientific conference in Moscow.
The Vatican decided to increase the status of its apostolic administrations in Russia up to the level of dioceses in 2002 thus causing a protest of the Russian Orthodox Church.
‘We consider it a mistake, which indeed damages the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue and puts off a possibility of achieving our common aims’, Metropolitan Kirill stated commenting on the 2002 events.
He said that arguments of the Moscow Patriarchate’s opponents were unjustified as they alleged that the Russian Orthodox Church in Europe had its dioceses set up on the same principle as the Catholic dioceses in Russia.
‘Dioceses of the Moscow Patriarchate in diaspora are not ordinary. Neither are they connected with local jurisdiction. They were established to provide pastoral care for people in diaspora, they do not have strictly defined boarders. In a certain sense, they are unusual dioceses and we always underline it in our dialogue with the Catholics’, the representative of the Russian Church noted.
According to him, if there was a notion of an apostolic administration in the Orthodox Church, the dioceses of the Moscow Patriarchate in Europe were called ‘administrations’. ‘However, we have only a concept of eparchy or diocese’, Metropolitan Kirill added.
‘The conflict comes from our total misunderstanding why absolutely appropriate term was changed to absolutely inappropriate’, he noted.
The Metropolitan further said that the status of Catholic dioceses in Russia ‘should be changed and brought back to the former level of apostolic administrations’.
He also noted that representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate were often asked why they accused only the Catholic Church in violation of canonical territory, while the Protestants had more parishes in Russia if compared with the Catholics.
‘However, we do not share with these (Protestant – IF) communities the common source of our church structure which is the canonical tradition of the early undivided Church, while we do have things to talk about with our Catholic brothers’, the hierarch said.
According to him, the territorial principle should be ‘crucial in defining bishopric jurisdiction’. ‘A bishop is linked to the territory and it is our common cultural asset. The idea of territorial jurisdiction is based on this principle. To doubt fundamental importance of this idea means to oppose our common church Tradition’, Metropolitan Kirill underlined.