Russian Orthodox Official: Time for Solidarity

(Hat tip:A.J.) Video: Visits Pope and Ecumenism Council President in the Vatican

ROME, SEPT. 21, 2009 ( Russian Orthodox Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev says there are so many reasons for Catholics and Orthodox to cooperate in our de-Christianized world that it is time to move past divisions and competition and exist in solidarity and mutual love.

The archbishop affirmed this after he met in the Vatican on Friday with Benedict XVI and on Thursday with Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The cardinal invited the archbishop, who since March has been the chairman of the Department of External Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Archbishop Alfeyev was already well-known at the Vatican, having previously been the Russian Orthodox Church’s representative to the European Institutions in Brussels. He is also an accomplished composer, using his music to bring East and West together. His interpretation of St. Matthew’s account of the Passion was performed at the Vatican before Easter in 2007; his Christmas oratorio premiered that year at a Catholic Church in Washington, D.C..

With his new role in the Russian Orthodox Church, the archbishop met with the Pope on Friday, later telling a group of journalists that he hopes the Holy Father and Patriarch Kirill will be able to meet soon.

“We support the Pope in his commitment to the defense of Christian values” he said. “We also support him when his courageous declarations arouse negative reactions on the part of politicians or public figures or they are criticized and sometimes misrepresented by some in the mass media.”

“We believe that he has the duty to witness to the truth and we are therefore with him even when his word encounters opposition,” the archbishop affirmed.

“Personally, I hope that sooner or later the meeting that many are awaiting between the Pope and the patriarch of Moscow will take place. I can say with responsibility that on both sides there is the desire to prepare such a meeting with great care,” he said.

This meeting, Archbishop Alfeyev acknowledged, would represent a major step forward in relations between Catholics and Orthodox. (Story continues here)