Tom McFeely is the National Catholic Register’s News Editor. He lives in British Columbia.
Zenit yesterday published a pair of articles that provide corroboration of Daily Blog entries posted last week by Edward Pentin here and here, indicating progress on the road to unity between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
One of the Zenit articles is an analysis by Robert Moynihan of Orthodox Archbishop Hilarion’s visit to Rome. Moynihan highlights the significance of the meeting that took place Sept. 18 between Archbishop Hilarion, who is chairman of the Department of External Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate, and Pope Benedict XVI .
On Sept. 18, inside Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer palace about 30 miles outside Rome, a Russian Orthodox Archbishop named Hilarion Alfeyev, 43 (a scholar, theologian, expert on the liturgy, composer and lover of music), met with Benedict XVI, 82 (also a scholar, theologian, expert on the liturgy and lover of music), for almost two hours, according to informed sources. (There are as yet no “official” sources about this meeting—the Holy See has still not released an official communiqué about the meeting.)
The silence suggests that what transpired was important—perhaps so important that the Holy See thinks it isn’t yet prudent to reveal publicly what was discussed.
But there are numerous “signs” that the meeting was remarkably harmonious.
If so, this Sept. 18 meeting may have marked a turning point in relations between the “Third Rome” (Moscow) and the “First Rome” (Rome)—divided since 1054.
The other Zenit article features comments by Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk-Mohilev, Belarus, discussing the possibility that Pope Benedict XVI might soon meet Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Belarus.
From 1991 to 2007, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz served as the head of the Catholic Church in Russia.
Archbishop Hilarion, who since March has been the chairman of the Department of External Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate, met Friday with Benedict XVI, later telling a group of journalists that he hopes the Holy Father and Patriarch Kirill will be able to meet soon.
“This message, though not officially corroborated, was met with joy by all our believers,” Archbishop Kondrusiewicz said. “The priests, who learned about this message during a Mass on completion of the recollections in Minsk, rejoiced, because all of us were waiting for this event to occur. It would be great if it were true, because at last what Belarusian Catholics have been dreaming for years could become a reality.
“We also know that the president of the Republic of Belarus, Aleksandr Lukasenko, officially invited the Pope. The pontiff said at the time that he would come when God opened the doors. Maybe, it is already the time that God is about to do this.”
“The message about a possible meeting between Benedict XVI and the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill gladdened my heart,” he added. “I am dreaming of such a meeting.
“I always prayed for such an event when I was in Moscow and I am doing it now in Belarus. Such a meeting would open a new page in our relations—in the relations between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church.”