Monday, 12 October 2009

It's just not going to happen...

For those that hold the notion that reunion between the Catholic and Orthodox churches could happen in a few years time, here is yet another reality check from Interfax Religion, the news agency of the Moscow Patriarchate, on the Feast of the Holy Rosary:

Moscow, October 7, Interfax - Head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk has denied reports that Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia might visit the Vatican in the near future.

"No preparations are being made for the Patriarch's trip to the Vatican and his meeting with the Pope at any particular place or at any particular time," Archbishop Hilarion said while taking questions from journalists in Moscow.

The possibility of the Pope's visit to Russia in the near future is not being discussed, either, he said.

"The matter may imply a meeting on neutral ground, as they say now," he said.

Archbishop Hilarion insisted that the main purpose of a dialogue between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church is not so much a meeting between their heads as such as "radical improvement in our relations and the overcoming of the existing problems."

He mentioned among such problems proselytism, a too aggressive missionary policy on the part of the Roman Catholic Church in the traditional Orthodox territory in the 1990s, and the expansion of the Uniates in Ukraine.

Quite bluntly, reunion is just not going to happen! And this comes clearly apparent should anyone take into account the human reality of the split between East and West. You are not going to overturn a millenia of schism and doctrinal, spiritual and institutional divergence in just a few years. Both churches have gone their separate ways for a long time. And not are you going to overturn the legacy of state and political domination (among the Russians) or that of Islamic influence from Ottoman rule (among the Greeks, where they have the slogan: Orthodoxy or death!). Consequently there are strong undercurrents of deep, visceral hostility towards Catholicism and the papacy. At best, we can hope for greatly improved relations, but not alas for reunion.

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