Conditions still not ripe for papal visit to Russia, says Moscow archbishop

.- In an interview with the L’Osservatore Romano, Archbishop Paolo Pezzi of Moscow said that the right conditions are still not present for a trip to Russia by Pope Benedict XVI.

During his stay in Rome to receive the pallium on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul last Sunday, Archbishop Pezzi said about a papal visit to Russia, “It is difficult to foresee at this time but it should definitely be part of future plans.”

In the archbishop’s opinion, there are two reasons why a papal visit to Russia cannot be considered at this time.  “The first is that a trip of such magnitude would mean, or should mean in my opinion, significant progress in relations between the Catholic Church and the Moscow Patriarchate must be made to allow for an exchange of visits and/or a visit of the Pope.  In addition, I don’t think the Pope wants to visit Moscow without an explicit invitation from the Orthodox Church,” he said.

Archbishop Pezzi said it was a “very personal opinion” of his that “a visit of this type would be more opportune after a meeting between the Patriarch and the Pope in a particular circumstance, perhaps in the course of some kind of ecumenical meeting, in any country of the world, to which both were invited to participate.”

He said a number of recent events signaled progress in the relations between the two Churches, including Patriarch Bartholomew’s visit to Rome and Benedict XVI’s visit to Constantinople.

Asked about his relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, the archbishop said, “We are also progressing in this sense. We are seeking a concrete form of collaboration between our churches, as well as sincere friendship. Above all we seek to journey in the same direction.  There is definitely a certain desire to finally achieve full communion,” which he called a “gift for which we must pray to the Spirit of Christ.”

He went on to say that in his opinion, Benedict XVI sees the Russian Orthodox “in a very positive light, above all for two reasons: first of all, the passion of this Pope for the development of tradition in a healthy sense, his continual effort to renew, to use an expression by Pope John Paul II, the sources of Christianity. This is a much appreciated attitude.”

And secondly, he said, the clarity and sincerity with which the Pope affirms the Christian faith is “viewed very positively.”  Such an attitude makes it easier to confront and overcome difficulties, the archbishop stated.

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