Reflects on Progression in Letter to Russian Patriarch
The Church and the Russian Orthodox have been growing closer together in friendship and in the desire to promote common values, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope said this in a letter he sent to Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia. The letter was delivered by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, during his 10-day visit to Russia, which ends today.
The trip was undertaken at the invitation of Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, the president of the Department of External Affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate, reported the pontifical council.
In the text of his English-language message, the Pope wrote that the cardinal's visit to Russia "offers me a welcome opportunity to extend my cordial greetings, to express my esteem for your ministry in the Russian Orthodox Church and to restate my appreciation for your commitment to fostering relations between Catholics and Orthodox."
"It is with joy," he adds, "that I reflect on the experience of growing closeness between us, accompanied by the shared desire to promote authentic Christian values and to witness to our Lord in ever deeper communion. I think with gratitude of the recent visit of Your Holiness to Strasbourg and Paris, and the warm welcome given to the Catholic archbishop of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow during the Christmas celebrations last year."
The Pontiff added that another sign of "fraternity and friendship toward the Catholic Church" was expressed with the invitation extended to Cardinal Kasper to visit Moscow. "This is not only a sign of personal goodwill, but also a gesture toward the Catholic Church which Cardinal Kasper represents."
"During his time in Russia," said Benedict XVI, "Cardinal Kasper will visit Kazan to venerate the icon of the Mother of God which my beloved predecessor, Pope John Paul II, conveyed to Your Holiness through the good offices of Cardinal Kasper."
"This icon," the Pope explained, "bears a likeness to all the other venerable icons of the Mother of God, and as such offers a powerful sign of the closeness which exists between us. It also offers an opportunity for encounter with Muslims, who show great respect for Mary, the Mother of God."
The Pope noted that the Russian Patriarch "has been increasingly committed to dialogue with other Christians and the members of other religions, and it is with deep gratitude that I have followed with prayerful interest the signs of friendship and trust which your Church and its representatives have demonstrated in various ways."