Russian Orthodox leader says Catholics are "allies"

In the face of "hostile" secularism, Orthodox and Catholics are increasingly recognising each other as allies, a Russian Orthodox leader, Metropolitan Kirill, told Russian television following a meeting with Pope Benedict.

Reuters reports that Metropolitan Kirill, the head of external relations for the Moscow Patriarchate is thought to be pushing for closer ties with the Catholic Church.

"In the Vatican and not only in the Vatican but all over the world, Catholics understand that Orthodox (people) are their allies," Kirill told the Rossiya television station.

"And Orthodox (people) are more and more coming to understand that Catholics are their allies in the face of hostile and non-religious secularism," he said.

Metropolitan Kirill, who is Russian Orthodox bishop of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, has also been been awarded the Order of Merit, Degree II by the Russian government, Interfax reports.

According to a decree by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kirill received the award "in acknowledgment of his personal considerable contribution to the development of religious and cultural traditions and consolidation of friendship among nations".

The Russian Orthodox Church, which split from Rome in the Great Schism of 1054, had chilly relations with the late John Paul II, a Pole who had campaigned against communism and sought in vain to visit post-communist Russia.

Senior Vatican officials have said they are working towards an eventual meeting between Benedict and Patriarch Alexiy II.

Kirill, one of the most senior clerics from the Russian Orthodox Church to meet Benedict since his 2005 election, slammed homosexuality.

"When the declaration of human rights was made no-one in their worst nightmare could imagine a gay parade in Jerusalem," Kirill said.

Gays and their supporters rallied in Jerusalem on 10 November in a festival that has sparked religious protests.

Kirill said liberalism was simplistic to put too much stress on individual rights: "Yes it is your own affair if you want to be a sinner or a villain ... But you cannot say society does not care who you are."

Russian Orthodox cleric says Catholics are allies (Reuters, 20/11/06)
Russian president awards Metropolitan Kirill the Order of Merit, Degree II (Interfax Religion, 20/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Russian Orthodox Church
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21 Nov 2006