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Feb. 09, 2016
   

Pope and Kirill: A joint testimony in a war-torn world

One of the points in the joint declaration that is to be signed in Cuba on 12 February is “the problem of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, secularisation, the defence of life, marriage and the family and other issues of common interest”. Fr. Hyacinthe Destivelle of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity said this in a statement to Vatican Radio

 


Francis and Kirill

ANDREA TORNIELLI
VATICAN CITY- After the two-hour meeting they are due to hold in a room at Havana’s JosÚ MartÝ airport, the historic encounter between Pope Francis and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Kirill, will conclude with the signing of a joint declaration “on different aspects of collaboration and testimony that the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church can offer our world today.” The joint statement issued by the Holy See and the Patriarchate of Moscow does not mention anything about what the contents of their discussion will be, nor did the Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi give any further information regarding this during the press briefing.

The Dominican priest Hyacinthe Destivelle of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, who looks after relations with the Slavic Orthodox Churches and works with Cardinal Koch, gave some idea of what would be discussed at the meeting, in an interview with Vatican Radio’s English section.

Fr. Destivelle will be at the meeting in Cuba on 12 February, when the papal Alitalia plane flying from Rome to Mexico, will make an “ecumenical” stopover in the capital of the Caribbean island, for the embrace between the Bishop of Rome and the Bishop of the “Third Rome”.

The Dominican expert explained that “the joint declaration will not be of a theological nature, given that this kind of dialogue is taking place within the context of the international commission for dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches”. It is common knowledge that there has been a theological dialogue with the Patriarchate of Constantinople for some time now. It began with the historic embrace between Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem on 4 January 1964. Since the Council, the Catholic Church has been reflecting on collegiality and synodality, aspects which were not always given a great deal of emphasis in the Latin Church, while the Orthodox Church led by Bartholomew I has reflected on primacy and the ways in which it can be exercised, with important theological contributions such as the recent book authored by the Archdeacon Maximos Vgenopoulos, titled “Primacy in the Church from Vatican I to Vatican II”. The Russian Orthodox Church has always shown less of a willingness to engage in theological dialogue, claiming instead that it is more inclined towards an active collaboration on current issues affecting Christians.

“The declaration will deal with various aspects of collaboration and testimony that the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church can offer our world today,” Fr. Destivelle told Vatican Radio. These include “the problem of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, secularisation, the defence of life, marriage and the family and other issues of common interest”.

The expert from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity said relations between Rome and Moscow have deepened in recent years following a difficult phase in the 90s. At the time, the Patriarchate of Moscow accused the Catholic Church of proselytism because it restored the hierarchical structures in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. There was also “the so-called ‘uniate’ problem in Ukraine”. However, “the Patriarchate of Moscow received reassurance” on both these issues.