Russian Orthodox leader urges Vatican to resolve dispute and pave way for summit

September 12, 2011

(Saint Basil's Cathedral in Moscow December 2, 2010/Denis Sinyakov)

A senior leader of the Russian Orthodox Church on Monday called on the Vatican to do more to resolve outstanding disputes so that a meeting between Pope Benedict and the Russian Patriarch could take place. In an exclusive interview with Reuters, Russian Orthodox Metropolitan (Archbishop) Hilarion, urged the Vatican to show “some signs” of readiness to resolve a decades-long conflict between Orthodox and Catholics in Ukraine that has been blocking a meeting of the two world religious leaders.

An unprecedented meeting between Benedict and Patriarch Kirill could begin to heal the 1,000-year-old rift between the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity, which split in the Great Schism of 1054. Since the break-up of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the Russian Orthodox Church has accused Catholics of using their new freedoms to poach souls from the Orthodox, a charge the Vatican denies.

But the biggest bone of contention concerns the fate of many church properties that Soviet leader Joseph Stalin ordered confiscated from Eastern Rite Catholics, who worship in an Orthodox rite but owe their allegiance to Rome. Stalin gave the property to the Russian Orthodox Church but after the fall of communism, the Eastern Rite Catholics took back more than 500 churches, mostly in Western Ukraine.

“Not very much was done or is being done in order to solve this problem,” said Hilarion, who is head of the external relations department of the 165-million-member Russian Orthodox Church and one of the closest aides to Patriarch Kirill. “As soon as we have this understanding, we will be ready to begin preparations for such a meeting,” he said.

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3 comments

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Just to correct you, the Orthodox are using Catholic Rites. The Orthodox Church split from the Catholic Church. Also, the 1054 date is actually incorrect. Although it is popularly used, the actual break occurred in the 13th century.

Posted by Christopher1978 | Report as abusive

“Just to correct you, the Orthodox are using Catholic Rites. The Orthodox Church split from the Catholic Church. Also, the 1054 date is actually incorrect. Although it is popularly used, the actual break occurred in the 13th century.”

What is your source for this? The “Great Schism” did indeed occur in 1054 and the Roman Church broke from the communion of (eastern) Christian Churches at Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople.

The break occurred chiefly because Rome’s claim of papal primacy (Rome’s position that the Pope was the sole head of the universal Christian church, instead of merely the Bishop of Rome operating within the larger framework of the conciliarity of Bishops) and the over the Filioque (the change to the Nicene Creed which held that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son).

Not sure what the 13th century date is that you’re referencing, though it’s worth pointing out that the 1054 schism didn’t just “happen”, it was the product of several centuries of misunderstanding and cultural divergence between the Christian East and West.

Posted by tpkatsa | Report as abusive

I forgot to add, as far as the Orthodox using Catholic rites, that is the the case in a small number of churches called the “Western Rite” churches. These belong to the Antiochian Archdiocese of America. Most of the Orthodox world however uses the Byzantine rite, i.e. the Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil. There is a small number of Catholic churches in full communion with Rome that also use the Byzantine rite. I believe these are called “Byzantine Catholic” churches or “Eastern Rite” churches.

Posted by tpkatsa | Report as abusive