Russian Patriarch Alexei II has again insisted that a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI would be possible after adequate preparation and after the Holy See fulfills the demands of the Patriarchate to decrease Catholic missionary work, which he termed “proselytism,” in Russia and Eastern Europe.
According to the Intefax news agency, Alexei II said Catholic religious and clergy still maintain “a goal of proselytism among the Orthodox population” in Russia despite denials by Catholic leaders. The Patriarch said before a meeting with the Pope could take place, “these difficulties we have faced since the 90s must be overcome.”
Since the fall of the Soviet regime, the Patriarchate of Moscow has often complained about the work of Catholic missionaries in the lands of the former Soviet Union. In response Catholic leaders have pointed out that the goal is not to convert the Orthodox but to reach out to the majority of Russians who do not attend church. The Moscow Patriarchate claims that all Russians are orthodox, even if they do not attend any church. Alexei II said he rejected the idea that “Russia is mission lands for the Catholic Church.”