Moscow, December 6, Interfax - The Russian Orthodox Church is so far unaware of when and where Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia might meet with Pope Francis, Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations, said on Monday.
"My meeting with Pope Francis is planned between December 20 and December 30. I intend to wish him a happy 85th birthday on behalf of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and discuss a broad range of issues concerning the bilateral relations between our churches with him. Among these issues is a possible meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill. Neither the venue nor the date of this meeting are known thus far," Metropolitan Hilarion said in a commentary published on the Department for External Church Relations website.
Earlier on Monday, media reported from a conventional press briefing Pope Francis hosted on board a plane that he said he would meet with Patriarch Kirill in a foreseeable future and that this meeting could take place in Finland, where Patriarch Kirill planned to travel, and that Pope Francis himself might visit Moscow for such a meeting.
Metropolitan Hilarion said Patriarch Kirill had received an invitation from the primate of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland several years before, but that "a lot of water has flowed under the bridge" since then, the intra-Orthodox situation has changed, the coronavirus pandemic has begun, and "the preparations for this visit have been suspended now."
"Concerning the Pope's visit to Moscow, I can say that this matter has not been discussed at a bilateral level," Metropolitan Hilarion said, adding that he expects the meeting in Vatican planned for the end of December would enable the parties to discuss all issues of mutual interest.