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    RUSSIA NEEDS ROME TO AVOID ISOLATION

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    MOSCOW, February 18, 2004 (RIA Novosti) - The Churches must not be obstacles to rapprochement between Russia and the West, Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Episcopal Council for Christian Unity, said as speaking to the community of Russian Catholics in Moscow.

    The Cardinal delivered a report devoted to the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the Decree on Ecumenism by the Second Vatican Council.

    The ecumenical movement marks the beginning of the effort to end opposition between the East and the West. Russia and Europe have embarked on another rapprochement effort. The Church must not be in the rearguard of the process or impede the rapprochement, said Cardinal Kasper.

    The West needs Russia, which often served as a shield for Europe, while Russia needs the West if it does not want to be isolated, said the cardinal.

    The Russian Orthodox Church was a founder of the ecumenical movement, recalled the Vatican official. However, relations between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches deteriorated in 1990. The ecumenical movement has been in recession in Russia since then. This is supposed to lay a new foundation for relations between the two Churches.

    Cardinal Kasper noted the difference between the secular, political ideals of unity and religious unity. It is not the administrative unity the Catholic Church is striving for, he emphasised. The religious perception of unity is based on the Holy Trinity image. Christian unity should not be perceived as strict uniformity, but rather as a lively intercommunication, unity in diversity and diverse unity.

    Forty years ago, the Second Vatican Council dropped the policy of romanisation of the East and proposed establishing a joint commission to work out common rules of conduct for the Sister Churches, said the cardinal.

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