Frost turns to thaw in Russian Orthodox-Catholic ties

October 31, 2007

Metropolitan Kirill and Vatican ecumenical chief Cardinal Walter Kasper in Moscow, Feb. 19, 2004Recent high-level contacts between the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches are starting to show some results. It’s still in the atmospheric stage, but the comments from Moscow are now much more positive than they used to be. The latest came on Tuesday from Metropolitan Kirill, the external relations chief of the Moscow Patriarchate, in a very Russian turn of phrase — “We now have a positive tendency — we have moved on from a severe frost to a thaw.”

Pope Benedict has been wooing the Orthodox churches from the start of his papacy and would like to become the first Roman pontiff ever to meet a Russian patriarch. The current patriarch, Alexiy II, tested the Catholic waters with a visit earlier this month to Paris, where he met Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard and other French prelates. He spoke about “emerging cooperation” between the two churches, without going into too many details. Speaking to journalists the next day, Kirill added a clearer assessment. “We have achieved some very positive results recently,” he said.

So does the frost-to-thaw image add anything? For journalists weighing every word these men say, it pushes the story just a little bit further. It was another departure from the wooden responses we used to hear in the past. That usually signals some real movement behind the scenes. When will we see the next step?

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