MOSCOW, November 13 (RIA Novosti) – The head of the Russian Orthodox Church and a powerful Roman Catholic Church cardinal on Tuesday voiced readiness for collaboration ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the Vatican for a meeting with Pope Francis on November 25.
“We live at an epoch when many of our historic differences should stop playing the critical role they have played in relations between our churches. We have very many common commitments and common goals,” Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill said at a meeting with Milan Archbishop Angelo Scola.
Relations between the two churches have been strained over a few issues that have prevented the churches’ leaders from meeting. The Moscow Patriarchate has in particular accused the Vatican of trying to lead believers away from the Russian Church – an accusation the Roman Catholics have denied.
Patriarch Kirill also said at the Moscow meeting that both churches have been concerned about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, as well as in Europe, where “pressure is exerted on Christians under the mottos of tolerance and multiculturalism.”
“Today the issue of preserving a Christian Europe – preserving the origins of the Christian civilization – is our common goal,” he said, adding that the Moscow Patriarchate welcomed Pope Francis’ position on many such issues.
Cardinal Scola said his church planned to defend freedom to express religious beliefs and to deliver the message of Christianity to the world. He added that he attached great significance to the common efforts of Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis to settle the conflicts in Syria and across the entire Middle East.
“Many Christian believers really become martyrs for faith, people lose their homes, churches are destroyed. We in the West speak too little about that,” the Italian cleric said.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis met on Tuesday with the chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s external church relations department, Metropolitan Hilarion, who is in Rome for a Catholic-Orthodox conference on family values, The Associated Press reported. No further details about that meeting were immediately available.