.- Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor said after his first meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexis II last week, it was very clear that the Patriarch “wants better relationships with the Catholic Church.”
“I was very impressed with the Patriarch,” he said in an interview with Gerard O’Connell posted on the Archdiocese of Westminster’s website. “He seemed to me not only very friendly but also very open and glad to see me.”
The cardinal-archbishop said the Patriarch was “eager to discuss the things we share as Christians and eager to talk about the way we should give common witness in Europe to the values we represent as Churches; the values regarding family, ethical and bio-ethical questions, and the question of being a Christian in a secular culture.”
“I was very impressed by the way he insisted that we have so much to share and that we need to support one another,” he added.
Cardinal O’Connor said the Patriarch also addressed some issues blocking the development of Orthodox-Catholic relations, such as the question of proselytism and that of the presence of the Greek Catholic Church in the Ukraine.
“With regard to proselytism, I don’t think the Catholic Church would want to use that word in reference to the way it promotes the Gospel; it promotes the Gospel very freely,” the cardinal explained. “Proselytism isn’t a word we would want to use, and so I was able to reassure him about that.”
The cardinal reported that the Patriarch expressed his high esteem for Pope Benedict and asked the cardinal to extend his greeting to the pontiff.
The cardinal said the Pope, who he met with on Monday, was pleased to hear about the meeting. “Part of Pope Benedict’s agenda is to develop a closer relationship with the whole of the Orthodox Church, and clearly the Patriarch of Moscow,” he said.
“In other words, I think the Pope himself would like to meet the Patriarch, but from his point too he would want a well prepared meeting, something that is realistic and able to ensure a real rapprochement, a real step ahead in the quest for greater unity with the Orthodox,” the cardinal stated.
The cardinal, who said he met with the Holy Father in his capacity as the president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, also spoke with the Pope about the weaknesses and strengths of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
The cardinal reported a decrease in priests and church attendance and the tensions of secular society. However, he also reported the respect people in society have for the Church.
“They recognize the rationality here and I think, increasingly they see that what the Catholic Church teaches, it teaches it because it is true,” he said in the interview.
“We count now more as Church than we did before and that, in a sense, if we could have more articulate lay people able to express their faith we are in a very good position to do so,” he added.