13 January 2010, 10:32
Russian Orthodox Church tight-lipped about possible meeting between Patriarch Kirill, Benedict XVI
Moscow, January 13, Interfax - The Russian Orthodox Church has said it is not willing to talk about details surrounding a possible meeting between the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and Pope Benedict XVI.
"We are not prepared to talk about the specific time or location of such a meeting," Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, told a press conference in Moscow.
The Russian Orthodox Church's stance on this matter remains invariable, and such a meeting "must be thoroughly and well prepared, and not only in terms of protocol formalities," he said.
"As late Patriarch Alexy II said on many occasions, we are not interested in the protocol meeting and shaking hands [between Patriarch Kirill and Benedict XVI] in front of the television cameras," Archbishop Hilarion said.
The meeting between the leaders of the two Churches should aim to "strengthen mutual understanding reached at the level of lower officials," he said.
Problems in inter-confessional relations in Western Ukraine are "currently the main but not the only issue" that is hampering the meeting, the Archbishop said.
Many Orthodox churches were seized by Greek Catholics in the early 1990s, he recalled, citing the statistics, according to which the number of Orthodox cathedrals in the Lvov diocese alone shrank from 1,329 to 48 over the past 20 years.
"We strongly disagree with those measures which saw the return of churches to Greek Catholics with no respect for the interests of Orthodox believers in Western Ukraine," the Archbishop said.