2009-11-12 12:23:00

Meeting possible between Pope, Patriarch Kirill - Archbishop Hilarion

Moscow, November 12, Interfax - Relations between the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches are improving and a meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, may be on the cards, a Russian Orthodox bishop said.

"Today it can be said that we are moving to a moment when it becomes possible to prepare a meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow," Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the head of the Department for External Church Relations, told reporters in Moscow.

"There are no specific plans for the venue or timing of such a meeting but on both sides there is a desire to prepare it," the Archbishop said.

Preparations for such a meeting must involve finding "a common platform on all remaining points of dispute," the Archbishop said.

One such issue are relations between the Uniate community and Orthodox believers in Ukraine. In the early 1990s, "the fragile interdenominational balance was upset and a serious situation took shape that still exists," Archbishop Hilarion said.

At the same time, conversion of Orthodox believers into Catholicism is less of a problem today than it was a decade ago, he said.

Benedict XVI is "a very reserved, traditional man who does not seek the expansion of the Catholic Church to traditionally Orthodox regions," the Archbishop said.

When Benedict XVI, shortly after being elected Pope, met with Metropolitan Kirill (the present Russian Patriarch, then head of the DECR, a papal visit to Russia "was taken off the agenda as now it appears to us to be impossible," the bishop said.

After Metropolitan Kirill has been elected Patriarch, "one can hope for further steps" in Orthodox-Catholic dialogue because the Patriarch "will continue the line on relations with Christians of other denominations that he pursued as part of his former activities," the Archbishop said.