Russian Orthodox in Rome

Good coverage in the New York Times about the dedication on Sunday of the Church of the Great Martyr Saint Catherine on the grounds of the Russian Embassy in Rome.

From Russian Orthodox Consecrate Parish in Rome:

“Today is a special event,” said Andrey Shumkin, a priest with the delegation from the Moscow Patriarchate, “and the presence of two cardinals here is a visual sign of collaboration.”

Cardinal Kasper said that “a lot of progress” between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox church had been made in the last 10 years. Both sides have demonstrated a willingness to discuss, as have the pope and Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, he said. A meeting between the two will come “when the time is mature,” he said.

And, from the advance story, Relations Warm Between Russian Orthodox Church and Vatican:

Reflecting Russia’s geopolitical dance with Europe, the Moscow Patriarchate has found common ground with Benedict, and since Patriarch Kirill was enthroned, he has appointed church officials who portray the pope as a like-minded man of the church, not politics.

“This pope, in contrast to the previous one, doesn’t strive to always be politically correct,” said Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, an Oxford-educated theologian who was until recently the Russian Orthodox Bishop of Vienna and Austria and the Russian Church’s representative to European institutions. “He believes he must speak of the teachings of the Catholic church. The task of such a church figure, especially of such rank, is to clearly state the teaching of the church, even if it doesn’t correspond to contemporary standards of political correctness.”

Archbishop Hilarion was selected in March to lead the patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations, which Patriarch Kirill headed for two decades. Both Archbishop Hilarion and the Reverend Vsevolod Chaplin, another rising church official in his early forties who heads a newly created department on church and society relations, strongly backed Benedict’s controversial comments in March that condoms are not the solution to the spread of AIDS. Their voices were among the few supporting Benedict’s stand.

From Rome come indications that Patriarch Kirill’s election represents a new chance for Russian Orthodoxy.

His predecessor, Patriarch Aleksy II, “had to work to refound the church, to set up structures, organize the clergy” after Soviet power crumbled, said Monsignor Bruno Forte, archbishop of Chieti-Vasto and a member of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. “Kirill has been handed a reborn church, so he has the strength to forge a new path.”

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