Russian Orthodox open to dialogue on status of Catholic dioceses in Russia

Russian Orthodox open to dialogue on status of Catholic dioceses in Russia


The haggling over the status of Catholic dioceses in the Orthodox lands as well as the status of the Orthodox dioceses in traditionally Catholic countries seems to have taken a turn for the better with Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, the Representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to European Institutions, calling for a "serious and elaborate discussion" on the matter.

"Many Western people think that the concept of a 'canonical territory' has lost its sense altogether in the modern situation because Orthodox believers coexist side by side with Catholics, Protestants and representatives of other faiths," Bishop Hilarion told Interfax.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, the head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, also brought up this difference recently.  It is hard to discern a quality difference between Catholic dioceses in Russia and Orthodox dioceses in the West, Cardinal Kasper said. In addition, he called on the Russian Orthodox Church to show the same openness that Catholics are demonstrating in relation to Orthodox parishes in Western Europe and the U.S.

In 2002, the Vatican made the decision to upgrade the status of Catholic territories in Russia to the level of dioceses. This change led to protests from the Russian Orthodox Church which said that the Catholic Church was encroaching on its territory.

Recently, Cardinal Kasper revealed that the outcry from Moscow over the change and the subsequent request from the Patriarchate, which asked that the Pope abolish the four Russian Catholic dioceses created by Pope John Paul II, was "very unexpected."