Deepening the dialogue
Returning from a first visit to Moscow to meet with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, the Vatican’s top ecumenist, Cardinal Kurt Koch said the two Churches must find ways of deepening their dialogue and working together to defend Christian values that are under threat in contemporary society.
The Swiss cardinal, President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, travelled to Moscow on March 12th for a five day visit that included talks with Russian Orthodox leaders and a meeting with the small Catholic community there.
Speaking with Philippa Hitchen about his visit, Cardinal Koch stressed the importance of deepening the theological dimension of ecumenism – a subject he will also be discussing at a seminar in Trieste on Wednesday. Referring to a meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion and his vision for a “strategic alliance” with the Catholic and Protestant worlds, Cardinal Koch described it as “an important project”, though he suggested it needs “a new name” with less military connotations. In particular he said the Churches must work together in three key areas to defend the “value of the family, the dignity of life and the freedom of religion”.
Looking ahead to the election of a new leader for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the cardinal said his next priority “must be to go to Ukraine” himself to learn more about the complex relations between the churches there.
He also noted he would be meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion again in his native Switzerland on Friday, as the University of Fribourg welcomes the Russian Orthodox archbishop as a visiting professor.
== I see a problem: the Roman Catholic Church signed a document that she will not convert Orthodox Christians in the regions of Orthodox Church. ==
Now that would really be a problem. But there is no such document, thanks be to God. There are some attempts at more local level or at the level of amateur ecumenists (or, better to say, professional ecumenists but without any position in Vatican) to renounce conversions in the name of (quite false) ecumenism. But the Church Herself, of course, simply cannot renounce Her mission.
The so-called Balamand Declaration is indeed a problem, and it indeed does have a certain official status. It was signed by Walter Card. Kasper as well as a number of top “Orthodox” prelates, including a representative from the Patriarchate of Moscow. Nevertheless, it does not forbid personal conversions; in fact, they are happening, even here in Russia, and a very considerable percent of Catholics here are in fact converts. Eastern-rite Catholics were very critical of it, as well as traditionally-minded Latin Catholics.
Balamand was treachery, pure and simple, and people usually don’t like to be betrayed. Of course they were critical.