Moscow, March 21, Interfax - Pope Francis met with Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, at the Vatican Secretariat of State on Wednesday.
"At the start of the meeting, the chairman of the Department for External Church Relations conveyed Patriarch Kirill's of Moscow and All Russia warm greetings and gratitude for prayers, noting that the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church closely followed the election and inauguration of the new Roman Catholic pontiff," the department's press service reported.
The metropolitan presented the pope with a Spanish-language copy of Patriarch Kirill's Freedom and Responsibility book and an icon of the Virgin Mary.
"The first steps of Your Holiness after the election were marked by humbleness," Metropolitan Hilarion said.
Hopefully, the new pontiff will build upon the positive changes that were observed in relations between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches under Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned in February, he said.
The Moscow Patriarchate attaches great importance to promoting relations with the Catholic Church in many areas, including social service, support for the poor and the deprived and protection of people suffering from persecution, he said.
Metropolitan Hilarion also informed Pope Francis of problems still facing ties between the two Churches, expressing hope that solutions would be found to them.