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A trip to Moscow for Pope Francis?

Discussion in 'Pope Francis' started by BrianK, Aug 15, 2017.

  1. BrianK

    BrianK Resident Kook, Crank, Curmudgeon - & Mod Staff Member


    A trip to Moscow for Pope Francis?
    Andrea Gagliarducci
    [​IMG]Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, will go to Moscow on August 20-24, and the news of his upcoming trip re-opened the discussion about a possible trip to Russia by Pope Francis.

    Cardinal Parolin’s official schedule for the trip has not been released yet. It seems certain that the Cardinal will meet both President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church.

    A papal trip to Moscow is a longtime dream. It dates back to 1990s, when – after the fall of the Berlin Wall and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbaciov’s visit to the Vatican – Pope St. John Paul II hoped that, with a trip to Moscow, he could finally certify his concept of a Europe breathing with two lungs.

    That longtime dream trip was never realized. Joaquin Navarro Valls, then Director of the Holy See Press Office, once said that the trip was “an open door as long as it is not closed.” It has been so until now.

    The trip was not impeded by political issues. The Pope had been invited to Moscow several times. The first invitation came from Gorbaciov during his visit to the Vatican on December 1, 1989. Gorbaciov’s successor, Boris Yeltsin, invited the Pope when he first met him on December 20, 1991, and after his second visit in February 1998. However, at the end of this last meeting, a spokesperson from the Kremlin underscored that a papal visit to Moscow could only take place after a “careful preparation” and a settlement in Catholic – Russian Orthodox relations.

    The issue behind the scenes was that of the “Uniates”, which, in Russian Orthodox parlance, refers to the Catholics of the Byzantine Rite from western Ukraine, whose church properties had been given to the Orthodox Church after Stalin declared the former outlaws.

    This issue still weighs on Catholic-Russian Orthodox relations, especially now that Ukraine is enduring an almost forgotten conflict. The issue burns so much that the Moscow Patriarchate has raised complaints over the Ukrainian situation many times. It even happened during the 2014 Synod of Bishops in Rome, when Metropolitan Hilarion addressed the issue in a speech delivered at the Synod, the main purpose of which was to discuss issues concerning the family.

    Pope Francis is well aware of the issue. In an in-flight press conference, he emphasized, “if I were to go to Moscow, I should also go to Ukraine.”

    However, the Holy See’s relations with the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate certainly have strengthened.

    The first, historical meeting between a Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow took place on February 12, 2016 in Havana, Cuba. At the end of the meeting, the two delivered a joint declaration that the Pope hurried to describe as a “pastoral declaration,” in part, because it conceded a lot to the Moscow Patriarchate in diplomatic terms. For example, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was described as “Uniate”, a term taken from a document from the 1990s, the Balamand declaration. The use of the terms “uniates” created some bitterness in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

    Out of that meeting, the very peculiar “diplomacy of the relics” was born: following on Patriarch Kirill’s request, a small piece of St. Nicholas’s relics safely kept in Bari left the Italian city and traveled to Moscow and St. Petersburg, to be venerated by Russian faithful according to a devotion that dates back to the times of the undivided Church.

    This “ecumenism of people” that goes beyond the still open theological issues will be one of the issues at the center of the meeting between Cardinal Parolin and Patriarch Kirill.

    The Moscow Patriarchate pursues a pragmatic ecumenism, to be carried forward via an alliance between the Churches against secularization and in defense of persecuted Christians, as well as an alliance on life and family issues. However, other theological issues are still controversial. The theme of the next Catholic-Orthodox International mixed commission on theological dialogue generated much discussion, as Moscow does not want to talk about the Church of the first millennium, because at that time the Moscow Patriarchate did not exist. The same Patriarchate suffers by being only the fifth in the sinaxis of the Orthodox Churches, though it is the largest in numbers.

    Patriarch Kirill took steps toward the Catholic Church, thereby going against the most extremist part of the Orthodox world. The dialogue with the Holy See goes on, and the meeting with Cardinal Parolin will help to foster it.

    Cardinal Parolin and Patriarch Kirill already met in Moscow on February 12, 2016, at the time of Pope Francis’s meeting in Cuba with the Patriarch. After the joint declaration, the wounds of the Greek Catholic Church were salved by Cardinal Parolin’s trip to Ukraine, by the Extraordinary Collection for the Ukraine which the Pope launched on Apr. 24, 2016, and by the most recent Cardinal Leonardo Sandri’s, the Prefect of the Congregation of Eastern Churches, trip to Ukraine.

    Cardinal Parolin met with President Putin twice: on November 25, 2013 and June 10, 2015, during the two visits by the head of the Kremlin to the Vatican. In both cases, the geopolitical situation was at the center of the talks, with a special focus on the Middle East and Ukraine.

    (Read the rest at the link)
    Don_D likes this.
  2. Don_D

    Don_D Powers

    This is certainly a step in the right direction and the timing could not be better. I hope that this trip bares fruit.

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