A Saudi offer to build a large mosque in Moscow has prompted Russian Orthodox organisations to ask for permission to build an Orthodox church in Saudi Arabia. Several western Christian churches have asked for or suggested such reciprocity with Saudi Arabia, which funds mosques abroad but bans any religion but Islam at home. It’s an issue that can only become more pressing if King Abdullah continues to preach interfaith dialogue and tolerance around the globe while not practicing it at home.
Several news outlets (this blog included) noted an interesting warmer tone during a meeting in Moscow between Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s top ecumenical official, and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexiy last week. The Rome-based Catholic news agency Asianews.it didn’t see it that way. Maybe the news we’ve been waiting for — the announcement of a meeting between Pope Benedict and Patriarch Alexiy — will take longer in coming after all.
With some news events, not much happens but the atmosphere is so striking that it’s worth mentioning all the same. That was the case in Moscow this week as Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, met Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexiy II.
We reported on Wednesday that Metropolitan Kirill, the external relations chief of the Moscow Patriarchate, has been making very positive comments about relations between the Russian Orthodox and the Roman Catholic churches. “We now have a positive tendency — we have moved on from a severe frost to a thaw,” he told journalists in Moscow on Tuesday.
Recent 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.”
The Russian Orthodox Church has published an embargoed statement from a Catholic- Orthodox dialogue session that it walked out of in protest this month. The Web site of the Church’s representation to European institutions in Brussels posted the text along with a commentary saying it would give its opinion of the statement later. The statement was not due to be released until November 15. According to the French Catholic news service I.Media, its early publication evoked surprise and disappointment at the Vatican department for ecumenical relations, as well as concern this could compromise the continuing talks.