No unity of Orthodox and Catholics yet, says Russian Metropolitan


Eastern Europe


Pope Francis meeting with Hilarion, bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church, the titular Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations and a permanent member of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow, during a private audience in The Vatican on October 6. Photo AFP, VATICAN MEDIA

Unification of the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches is not a subject for discussion. There are "many contradictions", the Russian Metropolitan Hilarion said in the programme "Church and World" on the Russia 24 channel.

Russian media, including the Union of Orthodox Journalists, write about it.

The Metropolitan commented on the words of the Pope at a meeting with the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church, Ieronymos II, earlier this month in Athens. He regards the Pope's apology as an important contribution to normalisation relations between the Orthodox and Catholics.

"No one is talking about the unification of the two Churches; the divisions have existed for a very long time, and there have been many contradictions. The two Churches have been living independent lives for almost ten centuries", Hilarion said. Since the Great Schisma in 1054.

The head of the DECR MP pointed out the differences between the two churches. "There are differences in understanding basic Christian dogmas, in honouring saints. For example, some persons are venerated as saints in the Orthodox Church but are not recognised in the Catholic Church. And many Catholic saints are not recognised as such by the Orthodox Church."

Ending rivalry

Unification is therefore not on the agenda. "There is no question of unification, but we can talk about ending the situation of rivalry, competition and hostility, which has existed for centuries," said Hilarion.

The Metropolitan added that the words of Pope Francis are far from the first apology addressed to the Orthodox by the Roman pontiffs. His predecessors also made such comments; they spoke directly about the numerous mistakes made by Catholics concerning the Orthodox.

Among such mistakes, Metropolitan Hilarion mentioned the creation of the union, which still serves as a divisive factor for the faithful. "The Catholics tried to convert the Orthodox to Catholicism in various ways. And one of the ways was the union when the Orthodox were allowed to keep their liturgical rite. Still, they had to join the Catholic Church and fully accept the Catholic doctrine, including the doctrine of the universal jurisdiction of the Pope."

Meeting Patriarch and Pope

The Russian Orthodox Church is unaware of when and where Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia might meet with Pope Francis. This was reported on December 6 by the Russian press agency Interfax on the authority of Metropolitan Hilarion.

"My meeting with Pope Francis is planned between December 20 and December 30”, Hilarion said in a commentary published on the Department for External Church Relations website. "I intend to wish him a happy 85th birthday on behalf of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and discuss a broad range of issues concerning the bilateral relations between our churches with him", the commentary continued. Among the issues to be discussed "is a possible meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill. Neither the venue nor the date of this meeting is known thus far."

Earlier that day, on his return from Greece to Rome, Pope Francis said he was willing to visit Moscow for his next visit with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, which would be the first trip ever by a pope to the Russian capital.



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