Interfax, Moscow, Russia, February 22, 2004
Moscow, 22 February: Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksiy II had a
meeting in his residence on Sunday [22 February] with Cardinal Walter
Kasper, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Before the start of the discussion, the cardinal passed to the patriarch
greetings from Pope John Paul II on the occasion of the former's 75th
birthday. Then other members of the Catholic delegation, as well as head of
the Vatican mission in Moscow Archbishop Antonio Mennini, kissed Aleksiy
II's hand, thus asking for a blessing from him.
After that, the two sides embarked on the discussion of the problems that
exist between the Russian Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, the head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council, left, and Patriarch Alexy II, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, meet at the patriarch's work residence in Moscow, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2004
AP Photo/ Pool
(Click on image to enlarge it)
An Interfax correspondent reports that Patriarch Aleksiy II reminded
Cardinal Kasper quite harshly about a whole series of grievances the
Moscow Patriarchate held against the Vatican.
According to the patriarch, "relations between our churches have not
developed well in recent years".
"We believe that the principle laid down at the Second Vatican Council with
regard to Orthodox Churches as Sister Churches should be implemented, but
this has unfortunately not been the case in recent times, and we get the
impression that the Roman Catholic Church has renounced it," the patriarch
He regretted that decisions taken at annual Orthodox-Catholic meetings
"have remained only on paper".
In particular, Aleksiy II recalled, "it has been agreed that when new
Catholic structures are set up in the canonical territory of the Russian
Orthodox Church, its hierarchs would be notified". However, the patriarch
noted, "this agreement has been forgotten, and four Catholic dioceses have
been set up in Russian territory".
The patriarch also described as "an unfriendly act" the creation of a
Catholic province in Russia, when an archdiocese with a metropolitan in
Moscow was set up two years ago.
In view of this, Aleksiy II took up with Cardinal Kasper the matter of
ceasing missionary activities by Catholics among the people of Russia
baptized in the Orthodox Church or tracing their roots to the Orthodox
"This is direct proselytism, which must not exist between Sister Churches,"
the patriarch stressed.
In particular, he noted that it was inadmissible for children raised in
Russian orphanages to be converted to the Catholic faith.
The patriarch also handed to the cardinal a large selection of letters from
Orthodox Christians from Nizhniy Novgorod Region protesting against the
construction of a Catholic monastery in their region, which has no more
than a few dozen Catholics.
EDITOR: Proselytism is not a concept that is of concern to those
individuals and churches who believe in the dignity and worth of each
individual person and that all men are created equal. When one believes
that each individual person has a right to choose, especially regarding
religious beliefs and religious organizations, then one believes in the
basic democratic concept of freedom of religion and thus automatically in
the concept of the separation of church and state. If there is no
separation of church and state then there is no freedom of religion.
Individual citizens are only safe from domination and persecution by
church leaders when there are many different religions, many different
church structures to choose from.
FOR PERSONAL AND ACADEMIC USE ONLY