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MOSCOW, December 16. /ITAR-TASS World Service/. On Sunday, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, arrived in Russia on a visit. The cardinal, who is in charge of interaction with the Eastern churches in the Vatican, is expected to meet with Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill. Kurt Koch is the fourth hierarch of the Roman Catholic Church who has come to Russia over the past 1.5 months.
Officially, one of the key hierarchs of the Roman Catholic Church Kurt Koch has arrived in Russia at the invitation of Russian Catholics, the Kommersant daily writes. In early November, the newspaper recalls, former President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Paul Poupard had visited Moscow. After him, visits to Russia were paid by Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Angelo Scola and President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia. And on November 12, head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Hilarion met Pope Francis I.
Experts speak of rapid normalization of relations between the Orthodox and Catholic Christians. “Such intensive contacts are made for the first time in many years,” Professor Anatoly Pchelintsev, head of the Religions Study Centre of the Russian State University for the Humanities told Kommersant. “Apparently, in the near future we will witness a meeting between the Patriarch and Pope.”
The newspaper recalls that tension between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church had intensified in the early 1990s of the last century, when the Greek Catholic Church started to seizure Orthodox churches in Western Ukraine. Another factor contributing to the deterioration of relations was the missionary activity of Catholics on the canonical territory of the ROC. Because of these conflicts, Patriarch Alexy II has refused to meet personally Pope John Paul II (the meeting had been planned in Austria in 1997). However, during Pope Benedict XVI considerable efforts were made for the rapprochement between the two churches.
“At present, Christianity is going through not the best period in its history, especially in Europe and in the Middle East,” Pchelintsev believes. “The Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches have something to work on together, in particular, regarding the defending of Christian values in Europe, joint social programs and the protection of Christians in the Middle East.”
Receiving Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Russian Patriarch expressly stated that the ROC was ready to cooperate with Catholics. “Today, the issue of the preservation of Christian Europe, preservation of the Christian civilization sources is our common task,” Patriarch Kirill said. “I think our churches have never had so many important reasons to work together as they have today.”
On the background of meetings of the Orthodox and Catholic bishops that have become more frequent, Metropolitan Hilarion has for the first time openly declared that a meeting between the Patriarch and Pope is being prepared. “We are preparing it through negotiations with the Roman Catholic Church on the issues that we believe should be put on the agenda,” the metropolitan told Kommersant. “I’m not ready to say when or where the meeting will be held because we have not yet discussed this issue. I can only say that it will be held when the two sides are ready for this.
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