Cardinal Walter Kasper after his 10-day visit to Russia at the end of May

The Vatican's top ecumenist gave an upbeat report on his recent meetings with leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church, saying historic tensions have been replaced by an eagerness to cooperate.

"We're at the beginning of a new situation and a new reality, in which the confrontation of the past seems to have vanished," Cardinal Walter Kasper said after his 10-day visit to Russia at the end of May.

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation examined how the two church bodies understand ecclesial authority and the sacramental nature of the Church at their 74th meeting at Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, from June 2-4, 2008. Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati and Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh chaired the meeting.

At the first theological session, Father Paul McPartlan of The Catholic University of America offered an analysis of the October 2007 document of the international Orthodox-Catholic theological dialogue, "Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Ecclesial Communion, Conciliarity and Authority." Also known as "The Ravenna Document," this text examines the canonical structures that serve the understanding of koinonia (community) in the Church at the local, regional and world-wide levels. Father McPartlan is himself a member of the international dialogue. A Catholic reaction to the document was then presented by Father John Galvin and an Orthodox reaction by Robert Haddad, Ph.D.

Envoy says Orthodox-Catholic unity unlikely

A complete holy communion between Orthodox believers and Catholics is very unlikely, Russian Orthodox Church Representative to European International Organizations, Archbishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria, said in an interview with the newspaper Soyuznoye Veche of the Russia-Belarus Union Parliamentary Assembly.

"I think we should not expect the complete unity of Orthodox and Catholic rites. The division occurred almost 1,000 years ago and it can hardly be repaired," he said.

New head of Moldavia and Bucovina Orthodox church

The ceremony was attended by Orthodox Patriarch Daniel, President Traian Basescu and thousands of people. The new head of Moldavia and Bucovina Metropolitan Church, Teofan, in his inauguration speech yesterday, talked about the mission ahead of him and called on all hierarchs and priests inside the church to help local communities.

"If you do not do this, you will lose everything you have obtained in life and your wisdom will remain in vain," he told clerics present. Teofan also spoke about the special mission of his church in relation with Basarabia. "The church of Moldavia and Bucovina has a special responsibility in its relation with Basarabia and, with God's help, will continue to do its work with a lot of courage," he said.

Italian arrested at St. Petersburg airport trying to smuggle out icons

An Italian citizen was arrested trying to smuggle two icons out of St. Petersburg, the Northwestern Customs Department said on Monday. "Icons of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Maker and Our Lady of Tikhvin were found in the Italian's luggage. He tried to use the green corridor and declared nothing. The Italian did not have permission to take out the cultural valuables," the department said. A criminal case may be opened on contraband charges.