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Will Francis Go To Moscow? Russian Orthodox Size Up New Pope

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 20, 2013

      Published on 2013-03-20

      Will Francis Go To Moscow? Russian Orthodox Size Up New Pope
      By Pavel Korobov

      MOSCOW - Catholics aren't the only ones who have noted the significance
      of Pope Francis' name choice.

      Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk and head of the
      Russian Orthodox Church's Department of External Relations, says the
      Argentine pontiff's decision to honor Saint Francis of Assisi puts
      "service to the poor” at the top of the new pope's agenda.

      According to Hilarion, such service is a good starting point for the
      Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches to find new ways to work
      together. “We see a large area of possibilities for partnership with the
      Roman Catholic Church,” he said. “We hope that our relationship as
      partners will grow under the leadership of this new pontiff.”

      “We hope that Francis will give a push to the development of good
      relations between our churches, continuing a process started by his
      predecessor,” explained Dimitry Sizonenko, Secretary of the Department
      of Inter-Christian relations in the Russian Orthodox Church. “Pope
      Francis has said before that he likes Dostoevsky, and we would like to
      think that he might also like the spiritual tradition of the Russian
      Orthodox church.”

      People who know the new pope say that the hoped-for warming in the two
      churches’ relationship is entirely possible. “As the Archbishop of
      Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio regularly visited Russian Orthodox
      Churches on Christmas Eve,” said Orthodox Bishop John, the Bishop for
      South America whose headquarters is located in the Argentinian capital.

      He concludes that: “the new pope has a good relationship with Russian
      Orthodoxy and with Russian Orthodox believers.”

      Russian Catholics are also betting that under Pope Francis there will be
      progress in Catholic-Orthodox relations. Igor Kovalevski, the general
      secretary of the Russian Conference of Bishops, noted that the
      newly-elected pope is well-versed in Byzantine Christian traditions
      since he also led Argentina's community of Greek Catholics, who are in
      full communion with the pope but have a liturgical tradition that is
      distinct from Roman Catholics.

      "So he knows about the relationship between Orthodox Christianity and
      Catholicism," says Kovalevski.

      Finding neutral ground

      According to Igor Baranov, one of the editors of the "Catholic
      Encyclopedia,” Pope Francis’s stances on social issues like marriage,
      abortion and euthanasia are similar to the Orthodox Church’s. “Just as
      the image of St. Francis of Assisi is important in Russian culture, so
      the image of Pope Francis will become close to Russian spirituality,”
      Baranov said.

      There has been tension between the Russian Orthodox Church and the
      Catholic Church since the 1990s, when Catholics in Ukraine seized
      Orthodox churches. For that reason, the two sides say that in spite of
      the positive predictions, it is still very early to talk about a meeting
      between Pope Francis and Orthodox Patriarch Kirill.

      “A meeting between the new pontiff and the patriarch would probably have
      to take place on neutral territory and not until Russia is ready for
      it,” Kovalevski explained.

      Orthodox Bishop Hilarion concurs: “I think that a meeting is possible,
      but its time and place will be largely determined by how quickly we can
      get over the conflicts that arose in the 1980s and 90s.”

      Hilarion also said that Pope Francis has declared on more than one
      occasion that he feels close to the Orthodox Church and would like to
      have close contact between the two churches. As the diplomatic
      representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, Hilarion will have his
      first meeting with the new pope sometime this week.

      Read the article in the original language.

      Photo by - Serge Serebro - Casa Rosada - Worldcrunch montage

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      Crunched by: Emily Liedel
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