Moscow, December 16, Interfax - The Moscow Patriarchate is grateful to Pope Benedict XVI for understanding problems between the two Churches and not pressing on with visiting Russia and meeting with the Patriarch.
"Pope Benedict XVI perfectly understands the existing difficulties and therefore is not pressing on his meeting with the Patriarch, not to mention visiting Russia, as was done under his predecessor. We are grateful to him for this," the head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk said in an interview published in Der Spiegel, whose Russian translation the Department for External Church Relations has published on its website.
The Russian Orthodox Church does not rule out the possibility of a meeting between the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the Pope, but believes that it should be preceded by the resolution of the problems between them rather than be turned into "just a protocol meeting and handshakes between TV cameras."
"We want a breakthrough in our relations. When the situation in western Ukraine improves radically, when we, the Orthodox and the Catholics, agree once and for all that we are not adversaries gaining believers over from each other, then a meeting between the Pope and the Moscow Patriarch will be possible," he said.
Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Greek Catholics in western Ukraine "seized hundreds of Orthodox churches, and thousands of Orthodox believers were actually thrown out into the street," Archbishop Hilarion said.