CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy – Metropolitan Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Vlokolamsk stated, “I would say that there are certain divergences, and there are different positions, of the Orthodox churches on the question of the primacy.”
The head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations visited Pope Benedict XVI at Castel Gandolfo.
The leading Russian Orthodox official stated that the Eastern Orthodox churches still has to sort things out regarding the question of authority among them, a situation which may affect future progress on the issue of the papacy.
“As we discuss the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, within the framework of the next commission, we do not only discuss the primacy of Rome; but we have to touch the issue of the primacy in general,” explained the Orthodox metropolitan, as he discussed about the future proceedings of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.
Metropolitan Archbishop Hilarion was supposed to take part in the last session of the Catholic-Orthodox commission which was held in 2007 to tackle the question of papal primacy.
However, an internal problem between Constantinople and Moscow, over an Orthodox group in Estonia, forced the Russian representative not to go. There was also a misunderstanding with the status of the Orthodox Church in America.
Archbishop Hilarion stated that hopes for progress on the question of the papacy between Catholics and Orthodox are “probably not too high,” until Orthodoxy clarifies its own systems of authority.
“But still, there is hope, because if there is willingness to accommodate different positions and to produce a paper – or several papers, maybe – which would clearly state the differences, which would outline the way forward, then we can progress.”
Archbishop Hilarion also expressed doubts regarding a possible meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow, which never took place since Moscow’s progression to patriarchal status in 1589.
There are had been hopes that a meeting could occur in 2013, on the 1,700th anniversary of Christianity’s legalization by the Emperor Constantine.
However, Archbishop Hilarion mentioned that “Catholics and Russian Orthodox believers should not jump to conclusions about when a meeting may occur between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow.”
Despite his opinions toward the meeting as well as other ecumenical consideration, he stated that “His Holiness is a man of faith and whenever I meet with him I’m encouraged by his spirit, his courage and his dedication to the life of the Church worldwide.”
“Of course I’m very impressed by his knowledge of the Orthodox tradition and the attention he pays to the dialogue between the Catholics and the Orthodox … I believe that this attitude of the Primate of the Roman Catholic Church will greatly help us in our way towards better mutual understanding,” he then concluded.
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