.- Pope Benedict XVI will not attend the international three-day summit of religious leaders that opens in Moscow in early July because he was not invited, reported MosNews.
Metropolitan Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s foreign relations department, explained that the Russian Church did not want to hold two landmark events - the international interfaith summit and the long-expected meeting between the heads of the two churches- simultaneously, reported the news agency.
He said, however, that Pope Benedict XVI expressed his support for the summit.
The summit, an initiative of the Moscow Patriarchy, seeks to bring together religious leaders representing Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism to discuss how world religions could help give a moral response to the challenges the world is facing. The leaders are expected to draw up a final statement to present to a meeting of the G8 in July in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The Catholic representatives expected to attend include Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the pontifical councils for Culture and for Interreligious Dialogue; Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; and Bishop Joseph Werth of the Transfiguration Diocese in eastern Russia.
Tensions between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches were exacerbated in February 2002, when the Orthodox Church accused the Vatican of a modern Catholic invasion of Russia after it created four new dioceses. The Vatican, however, has said it is merely restoring church structures that existed before Soviet communism.