Alexy II’s Overtures Raise Hopes

Russian Orthodox Invites Catholic Prelate to Study Joint Pastoral Work

MOSCOW, JAN. 9, 2008 ( Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow sent Benedict XVI New Year greetings by way of the representative of the Catholic Church in Russia — a gesture the Holy See official said points to a tendency toward collaboration.

At the end of the celebration of the Jan. 7 vigil of Orthodox Christmas in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, the patriarch talked with the apostolic nuncio to the Russian Federation, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, and with recently appointed Archbishop Paolo Pezzi of the Mother of God Archdiocese.

Archbishop Mennini told Vatican Radio that Alexy II offered his congratulations to Benedict XVI, expressing as well his closeness and fraternity.

“The patriarch beckoned the new archbishop of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God and me to approach. Together, we kissed the cross with which the faithful had been blessed,” Archbishop Mennini said. “After I’d introduced the new archbishop, the patriarch told him he was open to meeting with him soon, not only to get to know him better, but also to study together common pastoral projects benefiting the faithful of the region of Moscow.

“He said that the faithful who live in the region of Moscow are entrusted as much to my pastoral care as to yours and because of this we have to work and collaborate together.”

Alexy II then asked them again to offer the Pope his fervent best wishes for the New Year just begun. The patriarch added that “his sentiments and those of the Russian Orthodox Church are inspired by motives of great respect and great fraternity,” Archbishop Mennini continued.

The papal representative in Russia said he thinks this gesture “confirms a tendency toward collaboration that can be seen not only on a theoretical level, but also on a practical level.”

He mentioned a Dec. 28 meeting of a Catholic-Orthodox commission, planned some time ago, as proof of the common desire for collaboration.

Archbishop Mennini added, “It seems to me that there are no longer problems that the two sides cannot address openly and freely, without running the risk of breaking off relations, above all without running the risk of destroying the climate of trust and dialogue, based on reciprocal respect.”

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