VATICAN CITY — In line with Pope Benedict XVI’s desire for the Catholic and Orthodox Churches to work together to confront the problems of Western secularism, leaders of the Neocatechumenal Way met with a key Russian Orthodox leader to discuss how the movement could teach methods of evangelization to Orthodox priests.
Carmen Hernández and Father Mario Pezzi,
founding leaders of the
Argüello said that they presented a proposal in which Orthodox priests would be taught the movement’s principles of evangelization, and have the opportunity to undergo training.
“We explained to him that the Way
hopes that the people’s faith will grow, so that a change will take place in
them and they will be able to love,” said Argüello.
“We have come to
Father Pezzi stressed the Way’s intention is not “to engage in proselytism.” He said that they were received “very cordially,” and that Metropolitan Kirill had been informed that Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was aware of their visit.
The initiative, which has taken
Said Argüello, “Few people come to church; that is why God is preparing a new evangelization. And the Russian Orthodox Church knows that there must be a different way of catechizing.”
In a statement Oct. 25, Metropolitan Kirill’s spokesman, Father Igor Vyzhanov, said the Russian Orthodox Church treated the Way’s proposals “with great caution.”
Speaking the same day to the
Register, Father Vyzhanov said that the
But, he added, “We share the same position on these issues, and we’re absolutely open and ready for cooperation in this area.”
The Oct. 19 meeting was the first
with Metropolitan Kirill and, contrary to some reports, no agreement was reached between the two parties
regarding the training of Orthodox priests. The encounter was arranged when the
movement’s leaders and Orthodox representatives met at a
“They contacted us, said they wanted to come and see us, so we thought, ‘Why not?’” Father Vyzhanov said. “We wanted to find out more and speak with the people — we’re open to Catholics here and have had meetings with other Catholic groups, such as members of the Focolare movement and the Jesuit order.”
Orthodox leaders also look negatively upon the reforms made by the Second Vatican Council, seeing them largely as external changes to the liturgy to which they have expressed disapproval.
Aid to Unity?
According to Father Vyzhanov,
But assuming the
“It depends on what we mean by the word unity,” said Father Vyzhanov. “In the course of the past thousand years, so many differences have appeared that it’s still very hard to speak about complete unity. We must do our best to work together, to do what is possible.”
The Orthodox consider relations
with the Catholic Church good internationally but frequently poor locally,
A spokesman for Metropolitan Kirill said it’s wrong to say there are atheists in
Regarding evangelizing followers of other religions, he said that Catholic missionaries never aim their activities at these groups, “they only try to evangelize the Orthodox.”
“When speaking of evangelization,
this is quite a delicate matter because the identity of religious communities
He stressed that the
“The most crucial work must be
done here in
Speculation has risen in recent
weeks of a possible
Father Vyzhanov, who is secretary of Inter-Christian Relations in the Orthodox Department for Foreign Affairs, did not rule out the possibility.
“We haven’t had any talks about
that although, at the same time, the patriarch has himself said many times that
a visit is possible and has never denied the possibility, but it must be well
prepared,” he said. “Conditions are good internationally, but they’re not good
He said it was “hard to say” whether a visit by Benedict XVI could help precipitate such a thaw.
“Journalists like to push these events,” Father Vyzhanov said, “but we bureaucrats must be cautious.”
(Zenit contributed to this report.)