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We are brothers

opinion2The first, historic meeting between a Pope and a Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church does not come from nowhere. Both the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate and the Holy See have been working on such an event for decades.  In at least three cases under recent Popes, such a meeting seemed about to take place. Once under St John Paul II and twice under Benedict XVI. But then nothing happened.  Why, then, did the Feb 11 meeting suddenly become possible? There are at least four different reasons:

The need to counter anti-Christian persecution

Both the Catholic Church and Russian Orthodox Church have spoken out clearly to stop the “genocide” of Christians that is taking place in parts of the world. It is now time to join their voices.

The need to counter global immorality

Fr Guaita cited a second reason why the meeting needed to take place now, “While the world is experiencing a sort of moral liberalism, the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church are a rampart for traditional values, and for this reason they are more united together. Together, they can launch a message of morality to the world.”

The Russian government needs a foreign affairs boost

During the Ukrainian conflict, the issue of the Ukrainian Church became a political issue, given that the Russian Orthodox Church has always sided with the Russian administration. At the moment, Russia’s diplomatic situation is isolated. Facing this diplomatic isolation, Russian president Vladimir Putin met with Pope Francis in Rome two times in three years: in November 2013 and in June 2015. In both cases, they spoke about the Middle East situation, with a special view to Syria, and about persecuted Christians.

The Russian Orthodox Church looks ahead to the Pan-Orthodox Synod

The Russian Orthodox Patriarchate also finally agreed to meet with the Pope for reasons of ecclesiastical politics. As the June gathering of the Pan-Orthodox Council approaches, Patriarch Kirill must show himself to be as close to Rome as Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, who promoted and organized the Pan-Orthodox Council.

In the end, Moscow and Rome are generally improving their relations. Rather than hold an ecumenical meeting, they are going to renew their relations with a common commitment to help persecuted Christians.

A further step would be an advancement in ecumenical dialogue. The last theological document was issued in Ravenna, Italy by a Catholic-Orthodox mixed commission. Both parties agreed that the Pope of Rome has a sort of primacy, and presides in charity for the other Christian churches. But still, there is not any agreement about how this primacy must be exercised. – Full text of analysis by Andrea Gagliarducci @ CAN

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