.- A high ranking official in the Russian Orthodox Church described a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI this last Friday as "very positive," and said Catholics and Orthodox must work together to promote Christian values while continuing to work towards unity.
Metropolitan Kirill, the top prelate in charge of foreign relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, held a private discussion with the Pope this past Friday at the Vatican.
While no official comments were made by the Vatican on the talks, Kirill told “L'Osservatore Romano” that, the visit left him "with great sentiments of hope."
Relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and Catholic Church have been strained because of accusations against Catholics of proselytizing and disagreements over the ownership of church property seized during the Communist regime.
The Vatican has rejected the claim that it’s trying to steal from the Orthodox fold, saying it only ministers to the country's Catholics, who number about 600,000 in a country of 142 million.
These tensions were the cause of great sorrow for Pope John Paul II, who failed in his attempts to achieve a reunification of the two churches in time for the Jubilee Year 2000.
Pope Benedict XVI has also made Orthodox-Catholic unity a priority of his pontificate.
Kirill provided an optimistic assessment of relations between the two Churches.
"Very positive," Kirill told the newspaper, "Just as the meeting with the pope for me was very positive and very beautiful.”
"We await and we hope for a positive development of our relations so that, finally, Russian Catholics live in peace with Russian Orthodox," he said.